Healthcare Consumerism: How Payers and Providers Are Using Technology to Meet Consumer Needs

Consumerism is gaining ground in the healthcare industry and reshaping the way healthcare will be delivered in the future. As healthcare premiums rise to $17,000 a year for the average family, Americans are taking on a larger share of out-of-pocket costs and a greater sense of ownership for the healthcare choices they make. Retail clinics are growing, along with telehealth, mobile apps and other online health services. Consumers are beginning to demand the same level of convenience, quality and affordability they have long expected from retail, banking, transportation and other service-driven sectors.

Healthcare organizations that choose to downplay these consumer demands will risk suffering declining market share and revenues—or worse face complete business disruption. How can healthcare payers and providers recalibrate to this new reality and adapt meet the needs of the newly empowered healthcare consumer? Healthcare leaders at the recent 2016 emids Healthcare Summit shared how they are tackling this challenge through innovative services, disruptive technologies, and integrated data platforms and systems.

Alleviating Consumer Pain Points

Rising healthcare costs are causing financial stress for many consumers and forcing them to delay or even forgo preventative care. Cost transparency is becoming more valued than ever, and consumers are clamoring for tools that will help them research services and fees to find the best quality for the most reasonable price. A few marketplace disrupters responding to this need include:

  • Healthcare Bluebook: Operates an online database that gives consumers a free tool to conduct price comparisons of services in their local area. Providers can participate by listing their “fair price” services with the site. Payers can also integrate the tool into their own member services platform.
  • GoodRX: Operates a free service that helps customers search for the lowest-cost prescription drugs in their area.
  • Honor: Provides home care and simple hourly prices for on-demand help, such as rides to doctor appointments, help with meal preparation and errands, personal care and light housekeeping.

Bringing Care Directly to Consumers

Just as consumers rely on technologies such as e-commerce, mobile apps and GPS-enabled devices to make shopping, navigating traffic and conducting business easier, they are also searching for on-demand healthcare that will serve them from wherever they are. Home health services are growing, and providers like Amedisys Home Health have discovered that discharging patients earlier from inpatient care into the home improves recovery rates and reduces costs for care.

Technology leaders like Google are looking to adapt online searches contextually, so when individuals look up information on a condition, they can also see results for nearby providers specializing in that area, including those in their health plan network.

The smartphone is the most versatile medical device of the future, with nearly 165,000 health and wellness apps available for download. Many of these apps are progressing from lifestyle-focused diet and exercise trackers to conduits for monitoring patients and connecting them to doctors for remote consultations. Affordable mobile device technology is fueling the growth of telehealth, though bringing remote visits up to the standard of in-person visits will demand solving challenges like integrating telehealth data with core systems like the EMR.

Capturing Consumer Intent

Designing relevant digital health technologies will require tapping into the desires of consumers, agreed panelists at the emids Healthcare Summit. Certain populations, such as the elderly, for example, prefer to use technology to connect with healthcare workers who will physically interact with them. For most consumers, digital health technologies must be simple and intuitive; otherwise they won’t use them.

Payers and providers are wisely investing in big data infrastructure and expertise to collect and integrate data on existing patients or members, while also exploring how to effectively mine this data for insights on customer intent—a strategy healthcare innovators believe will be crucial to connecting with consumers in more effective and meaningful ways in the future.

To read more about HIT and consumerism, download the charter from our 2016 emids Healthcare Summit.

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