The concept of healthcare consumerism has been floating around the healthcare industry for decades. Still, recent federal regulations — such as the 21st Century Cures Act and new price transparency rules — have finally pushed the industry toward transparency and empowered patients to shop for their care.
As a result of the new consumer-centric regulations, consumers now have more care choices than ever before. Healthcare is local, yes, but with telehealth and retail health disruptors entering the industry at a rapid clip, consumers now have a variety of ways to access care.
The combination of consumerism and choice mean only one thing: Competition is on the rise amongst healthcare stakeholders. Organizations will need to go above and beyond the bare minimum consumer experience to win consumer loyalty in this new environment.
What Drives Healthcare Consumers Away?
Before talking about winning more consumers over, let’s first examine three major drivers that send consumers scrambling away from an organization.
- Money. A 2023 Gallup poll found 38% of Americans put off medical care due to cost in the last year. If consumers can’t easily find the price of an elective procedure, or had received a surprise bill from a health system previously, they may be less likely to seek care from that organization again.
- Coverage confusion. If a consumer is unable to discern if a provider is in their network easily, they will be less likely to seek care from that clinician. Or, they may have been referred to an in-network physician, but prefer to see someone outside of the system.
- Data access and sharing capabilities. If it’s difficult to access a patient portal or they ask for their electronic health information and get the data on an outdated CD instead of digitally, they’re likely to walk away. Having to re-share their medical history at every appointment is also a deterrent. In fact, a 2022 study from CVS found 85% of consumers want their records digitized, and access to that digital record is important when choosing a provider.
Gain a Competitive Edge Through Healthcare Consumerism
Addressing the things that drive consumers away is the first step toward winning consumer loyalty. Complying with the recent government regulations is one way healthcare organizations can do that — for example, price transparency and interoperability rules were enacted so consumers would have more insight into out-of-pocket costs and could more easily access and share their medical records.
However, simple compliance with the laws won’t be enough to gain a competitive edge, attract new patients, and retain their loyalty. Going beyond the letter of the law and truly putting the consumer at the center will no doubt lead to some organizations gaining a competitive advantage over others in this bustling market.
For instance, look at interoperability as step one, then break down information silos within the organization and among partners like community organizations, providers, and payers. Doing so will help consumers see the full picture of their health. It will also allow consumers more transparency into if their preferred providers are in their health plan network and what the estimated price of a full visit and services would be.
Meeting the Moment While It’s Here
Ultimately, healthcare organizations need to focus on creating a go-to health hub for consumers that encompasses their entire healthcare experience. If they meet the moment, they will watch consumer volumes and loyalty grow.
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