Not too long ago, I read an article which claimed that “health care businesses acting like Amazon will gain an edge.” It got me thinking how consumer centricity in healthcare if applied to healthcare can open doors for health organizations all over the U.S. to cut down costs, enhance quality and more than anything else, improve the patient experience. The reason being that consumer centricity is simply a well-structured approach towards patient-centric care.
A healthcare system operating like Amazon will be built around the central idea of bettering the experience of consumers through consciously-driven care delivery processes that put the preferences of the patient at the forefront. It would involve linking patients with only recommended services or treatments. Moreover, just like Amazon tracks deliveries to the consumer’s doorstep, healthcare could customize patient’s schedule in a way that best work with their daily routine. Even the idea of tracking and monitoring the status of their lab results and delivering helpful content to the patient is easily conceivable.
Rise of consumer centricity in healthcare
Healthcare professionals had begun talking about bringing the consumer-centric model into the system a while ago, but why did the need for one arise in the first place? Before we try to figure that one out, it is important to know what exactly is meant by the term that is being repeated so very frequently in the healthcare space.
To sum it up in a single sentence, I would say it is, putting the consumer, or in this case, the patient at the center of the system. This means that the power lies in their hands; their choices, preferences, satisfaction are taken under serious consideration and are of the utmost priority. According to the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), this is what the future of healthcare looks like:
“Build a place online and on-the-go, as well as in the physical environment, where people can learn, engage, and easily transact their healthcare. All the information a consumer needs to know about their health care, including personal health records, preferences and lab results, as well as actionable tasks like appointment scheduling, bill-pay, and clinical questionnaires, should be available to them anywhere, anytime, from any device.”
Perhaps, it was the high deductible health plans that prompted the need for a consumer-centric model, or the fact that nowadays there is more transparency in costs or, it could even be the prevalence of on-time digital connectivity in healthcare. The bottom line is that deliberations over it have persisted because it seems like a solution that is within reach. Other industries have tried, tested and triumphed with its adoption. So, consumer centricity in healthcare holds multiple promises along with a possibly high return on investment.
How it would apply to healthcare
Think about it, what was the best customer-service experience you have ever had? Whatever it was, it certainly involved active listening on behalf of the one providing the service. Everybody wants to be heard, more so the patients who especially need attentive care at the hands of the care teams. Candid conversation can play a big role in enhancing the patient-physician relationship.
Empowering the patients to make choices
It is no longer about the physicians instructing the patients on what he or she should do as many of them are unable, unwilling or uninvolved. The idea, instead, is to enable them, involve them and make them willing to look after their health. Providers today spend less and less time to examine and treat patients and more time on paperwork. They need to create strategies to increase the patient-physician interaction and provide patients with recommendable options.
Reducing waiting time
The healthcare system could cater to their consumers by speeding up the care delivery process and reducing wait time. We all know how annoying it can be to wait 50 minutes for an appointment that lasts merely 20 minutes. All the effort is being spent waiting in queues or filling out forms at clinic or hospital. Paperwork needs to be avoided as it is time-consuming. Through automating access to patient information and streamlining workflows, healthcare organizations can truly increase their efficiency. Cutting down wait times will not only result in more satisfied patients but also increase the efficiency of the organization, which would otherwise risk losing both revenue and patients.
Easy and seamless access to care
It is ironic that despite the biggest technological leaps being made in healthcare, the patients are still filling in manual sign-ins and carrying paperwork with them during every visit to their clinicians. Patient data collected during first walk-ins will save time during further visits. Data required for insightful analysis is collected and stored automatically. A digital database would be a bonus for providers as storing patients’ sensitive information into a database gives more security than physical data storage. Patient portals are a great way to seamlessly relay information from provider to patient and vice versa.
A healthcare organization’s responsiveness to consumer problems engenders trust. It is important to respond quickly to the patients. Not because they could be in a hurry but because giving patients extra attention shows your concern and satisfies the patient on a whole other level. There are three easy steps to doing this:
- Keep the consumer informed so that he or she make the right choices,
- Accept the consumer in the decision-making process, and
- Respond to the consumer’s satisfaction or you may risk losing the patient-consumer.
Apart from this, setting up dialog boxes where patients can drop in their queries and providing door-to-door services, whether it is for medicines, equipment, lab reports et al. Gathering feedback is another way to improve consumer satisfaction. Connecting with patients via smartphones is yet another way to improve responsiveness.
Why is there a need to improve the consumer experience
To answer why consumer centricity is needed in healthcare, it would be for shared decision-making and patients realizing a more satisfying experience. Hospitals need a set of core values that are consumer-focused. Flourish a symbiotic relationship between the consumer and the provider- one that benefits both. Providers must start with a practical, digital approach to treating patients like consumers.
The focus on consumer’s health care priorities will only increase in the coming future as the health care system will likely reside on phones, watches, and wearables. Consumer experience will, therefore, rely on their personal preference and whether those are met by their providers. Besides improving consumer satisfaction, it will ensure better quality as consumers will naturally demand higher safety and better care.
The pressure on care organizations to maintain quality standards will remain high as consumers will be “socially vocal” when the care provided does not meet their expectations. Moreover, consumer satisfaction reports will further serve as a testimony to meeting cost and value expectations. In the end, consumer centricity, which is built on value-based principles and customized for each consumer, is bound to deliver healthier outcomes.
The road ahead
The good news is that consumers are taking advantage of unprecedented access to information to become more diligent and informed about their health. Patients as consumers are demanding more sophisticated, convenient, transparent, affordable and personalized service. The underlying message is that patients are accepting greater accountability for their health.
It is no secret that healthcare organizations will have to adapt superior methods in order to stay ahead in a value-driven healthcare system. For this, there needs to be a genuine commitment on the part of the leadership of an organization to bring consumer centricity into healthcare on a wider scale. An approach like that will dramatically alter the U.S. healthcare delivery system for the better and give a push to the growing power of the patient as a discerning consumer. Ultimately, all of this will serve to bring value-based care into the lives of every healthcare consumer.
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