Meeting the Needs of Today’s Healthcare Consumer

Healthcare in the United States is changing rapidly, and many factors are putting a strain on the industry—the shift from fee-for-service to value-based care; a shortage of doctors, nurses and health IT professionals; aging Baby Boomers who will need more and more care; the advent of healthcare technology and wearables; and an increasingly consumer-oriented patient population are just a few. As consumers pay for a larger chunk of their own care, they are demanding more information about why treatments are needed and what they cost ahead of time.

Meanwhile, major epidemics are escalating healthcare costs in the U.S. and globally beyond sustainability: Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, skin cancer and other long-term illnesses are on the rise. Stemming the tide of chronic illness demands highly interactive patient relationships. Looming above all of these challenges is the stark reality that value-based payment reform is underway.

While the lion’s share of healthcare is still being delivered under the fee-for-service model, ignoring this trend is dangerous. Once wholesale payment reform occurs across the nation, healthcare organizations that haven’t prepared for the transition will be scrambling to update revenue models, business strategies and information systems. At the heart of the matter is changing relationships with consumers.

Here are some of the approaches companies have taken to meet those needs:

  • Aetna has started its own analytics company, ActiveHealth Management. The population health management division is delivering data and applications that enable patients to track their own care and give providers better insight into treating high-risk conditions.
  • Corner drugstores are now becoming trusted healthcare partners. The Walgreens app, which enables quick refills, prescription status and history, pharmacy chats and shopping assistance, has 10 million downloads. CVS has a similar app, which includes Minute Clinic scheduling information. Many of these services are helping customers navigate healthy choices as they walk through stores, pushing individually relevant, real-time coupons. Drugstore pharmacists are calling to check on customers who have filled prescriptions, helping increase medication adherence.
  • Wireless technology company Jawbone is becoming a healthcare analytics company with its line of fitness wearables which collect petabytes of data about sleep patterns, nutritional choices and exercise habits from millions of users.
  • Software startup Livongo wants to help patients manage diabetes, a deadly and chronic disease, through a highly coordinated and constantly streaming flow of data managed through its smart glucometers.
  • Everyday Health is a digital health company that has created a suite of apps helping people track and manage diets, conditions and exercise along with specialized apps targeting segments such as pregnant women. The publicly traded company has attracted 65 million registered users and two-thirds of the U.S. physician population. Health information aggregators, such as Everyday Health, are becoming a new type of partner in the healthcare delivery system.

Progressive healthcare companies are thinking about how to engage consumers before they become patients, preventing costly and life-threatening illnesses, and improving quality. The hope is that with better information, more frequent interaction and incentives to change behavior, the healthcare community can reduce the incidence of chronic illness.

Read the charter from our 2015 emids Healthcare Summit to learn more about how to best prepare for the future healthcare consumer.

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