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Customer Experience and Design

Connected Health Top 10: #9 The Real Consumerization of Care

Top-Ten-300x298Speaking to patients about money is often viewed as distasteful in the healthcare setting. However, as both national and state healthcare legislation evolve, and the cost of care soars under the weight of aging boomers and patients with multiple chronic conditions, the patient’s dual role as a consumer of healthcare services will become clearer. As a result, the time is upon us where the office of finance will become increasingly interested in joining the office of medicine and the office of marketing in the topic of consumer engagement.

There is an ongoing debate about whether patients should also be considered “consumers”. The best answer I have heard to this question implied that calling a patient a “consumer” does not imply that they are not also a patient. There is not a single spectrum with patient on one end and consumer on the other. Instead, we have an industry where our patients can also, at times, be consumers as well. This is the case when patients need to make consumer choices about their care.

When a Patient is Also a Consumer

Healthcare reform has certainly had a role in making this trend come to life, but patient advocacy work on the subject of price transparency is also moving this trend. Still more, it is likely that state mandates will provide the trend with its truest form.

It has been said that price transparency mandates should reach the legislating bodies of at least 5-7 states in the near term. Given the interconnectedness of health systems, and the care they provide across geographies, a change in one state will have a ripple effect across the entire healthcare market. For example, in 2014 Massachusetts legislated that healthcare organizations must provide pricing information to consumers. Any health system that relies on the millions of patients within Massachusetts, through either brick and mortar or telehealth, will be similarly impacted by this legislation.

Tactics that Support the Real Consumerization of Healthcare

For millions of consumers, awareness about price, costs, and alternative options will snowball when compounded with their newly self-insured status coupled with the soaring cost of care. Implications include:

  • Strategic marketing efforts that align with a healthcare consumer’s smarter selection of services
  • Growth of disruptive models for payment
  • More consumer friendly processes placed around invoicing statements and billing for healthcare services
  • Increased collaboration between the source of care (health systems) and the payment of care (health insurance plans)
  • Paradigm shifts in services delivery

Ultimately, the increasing patient demand for price transparency will put the health system to the test. Innovation will be a high priority as health institutions seek to control costs while offering better service in the quest for better outcomes, fewer admissions, and fewer readmissions.


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Melody Smith Jones

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