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What healthcare needs to succeed in a consumer-driven world

Over the last ten years, the burden of choosing and paying for care has been shifting to patients. When patients bear these responsibilities, they tend to behave more like they do in other places: They act more like consumers.

“Patients” are the people whom providers partner with to achieve specific health-related objectives. When patients also have customer expectations for the value of services they’re going to receive, they become “consumers.”

Consumer-driven healthcare delivery is evolving. In traditional fee-for-service models, patients were one (not the primary) type of customer. Under this model, organizations commonly viewed physicians and payers as their primary customers.

Next, as quality models started emerging, healthcare providers started treating patients as partners. Because behavioral compliance affects outcomes, clinicians needed increased patient partnership to achieve better quality in value-based-care models.

For the third step in this evolution, healthcare must provide value that meets the needs of consumers. Patients are no longer loyal to their physicians, but are seeking convenience and instant gratification. Providers must embrace experience alongside quality and cost to be successful here.

Advancing consumer-driven solutions

To succeed in a consumer-driven world, healthcare providers will need to think about what they’re delivering as a product or service, not just a utility. Providers must take a more retail-oriented approach and differentiate their services by quality, cost and experience.

The proliferation of healthcare applications is one way the industry is responding to consumer demand. Beyond apps, the industry is testing other new solutions to address this trend. For example, employers offer new benefits arrangements, including onsite clinics, to improve access to quality care and reduce cost.

Telehealth is another example of a consumer-driven solution. People increasingly want convenient ways to engage in simple care needs. Solutions that enable access to quality care and patient experiences at a lower cost will continue to grow in popularity among consumers.

Delivering healthcare for people

Whether we think of “patients” or “consumers,” we must always remember that every person has a story. Beyond the narrative of a disease or an acute episode – a patient’s story includes who he or she is as a person, as a working mother, or devoted grandfather, or all-star little leaguer.

Successful providers are the ones who think about their consumers as having a full, rich story and will move swiftly toward interoperable, connected systems to address their complete needs.

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