With a new presidential administration to begin soon and insurance premiums continuing to rise, there are many questions about the future of U.S. healthcare. One thing is for sure: Patients are changing the game, and healthcare organizations need to adapt to gain their business and loyalty. According to Deloitte’s 2016 Consumer Priorities in Health Care Survey, consumers care most about:

  • Having a personalized experience with caregivers, defined as “being heard, understood and provided clear direction”
  • Access to affordable care with no surprises on cost
  • Convenience when accessing care

The following trends, explored during the recent 2016 emids Healthcare Summit in Nashville, show how healthcare is evolving with consumer preferences at the center.

It’s not all digital.

Digital-first companies have learned that consumers don’t want to do everything online. Take Amazon, with its experiments in physical bookstores and its recent expansion of “pop-up stores” at malls and other locations to showcase the company’s technology products and provide an experiential environment for shoppers.

Healthcare organizations should tread carefully when deploying new websites and apps. The Deloitte survey found that healthcare consumers ranked digital interactions significantly less important than other types of interaction.

Large healthcare organizations, such as Florida Blue, are seeing positive results from investing in retail centers. The insurance plan, owned by Guidewell Health, operates 20 centers where people can enroll in a plan, obtain health and wellness screenings, and even resolve claims. Customer service scores at the centers range between 92–97 percent; and Florida Blue benefits from obtaining more detailed information about members through the screenings.

Ease access to care—including at home.

The nation is suffering a crisis in primary care: the Association of American Medical Colleges predicts a shortage of 46,100–90,400 physicians by 2025. A related crisis is the high cost of caring for patients with chronic diseases—many of those patients end up in acute care facilities frequently and for days at a time. To tackle these problems, providers are finding growing opportunities in home health and retail clinics.

Amedisys, Inc., a national home health and hospice provider, is one company leading the charge to get patients out of hospitals sooner and back into the comfort of their own homes. “If you take the top 10 percent of the folks eating up about 50 percent of healthcare costs, these are frequent flyers in the hospital, generally those with chronic diseases,” said Paul Kusserow, president and CEO with Amedisys, during a session at the emids Summit. “That can be alleviated when you center care fundamentally in the home.” Home care has the potential to go beyond what a hospital can provide to personalized care that includes help with cooking, cleaning, transportation and errands.

Retail clinics are another tactic that continue to improve the patient experience. Around for more than 10 years now, they are going mainstream. Patients don’t have to wait for an appointment; they can walk in during hours that are convenient for them, including after work or on the weekends. There are now 960 CVS MinuteClinics nationwide, and 400 Walgreens clinics, which take insurance and can treat patients for minor conditions like the flu or refer them to more specialized care if needed.

Harness technology where it makes sense.

The strategic use of technology, such as remote-visit apps connecting patients to doctors through smartphones, is filling gaps that traditional care cannot provide. Telemedicine has long been used for rural areas, but it can now be accessed through mobile technology that people already own.

Florida Blue is testing out a video chat service through a mall-installed kiosk, HealthSpot, where patients can have a private video chat with a local doctor. A medical attendant works in the kiosk to take the patient’s blood pressure or perform other routine screenings, as guided by the remote physician.

A creative, cost-conscious blending of high-tech and human-touch programs can help payers and providers establish long-term relationships with members and patients based on trust. And that is an important first step toward improving the healthcare system.

Want to learn more about how payers and providers are aligning their services to meet the needs of the newly empowered healthcare consumer? Visit our website to download this year’s from the 2016 emids Healthcare Summit.

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