The 3 cornerstones of a consumer-centric healthcare experience

Many industry stakeholders have been anticipating the rise of modern consumerism in healthcare for years. According to Change Healthcare's Spencer Cross, director of product management and experience solutions, the wait is over.

"The consumerization of healthcare is here," said Mr. Cross during an Aug. 1 webinar. "We are no longer saying that by 2019 the consumerization of healthcare will be here, we are saying [it] is here today, and those providers that are not equipping themselves with processes and technologies that address that consumerization are at risk of losing patients to those providers that do."

During the webinar, Mr. Cross detailed the trends driving healthcare consumerism and outlined the cornerstones of a consumer-centric healthcare experience.

Millennials and HDHPs — The trends driving healthcare consumerism
Several trends have contributed to the rise of consumerism in healthcare. One key factor has been increased enrollment in high-deductible health plans, said Mr. Cross during the webinar, which was sponsored by Change Healthcare and hosted by Becker's Hospital Review. With HDHPs, patients are responsible for a higher portion of the cost of care, making them more conscious of where they go to receive care.

Patients are also increasingly measuring their healthcare experiences against their consumer experiences in other industries, such as retail and travel. They are "likening their interaction with [primary care physicians] to their interaction with their barista," Mr. Cross said.

Regulators, both at the federal and state level, have an eye on healthcare consumerization. For the past decade, the integration of technology into the healthcare industry has been focused on the business and provider side, Mr. Cross said. But now, regulators are increasing pressure on providers to leverage technology to move the needle on patient experience, particularly in areas such as price transparency.

Another major factor causing the shift to a consumer mindset in healthcare is the emergence of the millennial consumer. Today, a majority of healthcare decisions are made by millennials, according to Mr. Cross. Millennials are making decisions for themselves, their children and, oftentimes, their elderly parents. They are driving healthcare consumerism by coming into care experiences with expectations of having access to digital and mobile-friendly tools.

"It's important to recognize that it's not technology disrupting healthcare," Mr. Cross said. "Technology, very rarely, is the disrupter. The consumer is the disrupter in healthcare. And consumers are increasingly pushing us to have mobile-friendly experiences, and what you find is that 81 percent of U.S. consumers have smartphones and want to use those smartphones to engage with their healthcare providers."

Also, millennials are not tied to an individual provider, Mr. Cross said. They often do not have loyalty to one primary care physician over their lives. Even when they receive a referral from a provider they trust, they will likely shop around and look for better pricing or better reviews.

Cornerstones of a true consumer-centric healthcare experience
Mr. Cross outlined three cornerstones of a truly consumer-friendly patient experience.

1. Build on existing core competencies. Leaders can't bring in technology or partner with a vendor and expect it to solve all their organization's patient experience issues. For example, a single price transparency solution will not meet all of an organization's pre-payment needs, Mr. Cross said. Leaders need to bring in technology that fits into existing workflows and enhances them. Also, it must be possible for data to pass freely between systems so that the patient's care experience remains consistent.

2. Draw from the success of other industries. There are several aspects of the consumer journey that other industries have perfected, and healthcare can draw from these successes. "The check-in experience has been solved already in the airline industry, the booking experience has been solved in the hotel industry … we can borrow successes, borrow insights from those other consumer-facing industries and apply them to healthcare," Mr. Cross said.

3. Keep the data layer consistent. The data powering patient experiences needs to be consistent, which will allow the patient to move seamlessly through the continuum of care. Providers should also customize the patient experience by using data from clinical systems to inform data in financial systems, delivering patients a more complete view of their current and future interactions with the healthcare system. For example, at the same time a patient receives a bill, they should also be informed of any upcoming referrals, which will simultaneously signal that they will have another bill to pay in the future.

What provider should expect from vendors
When providers assess potential outside partners to help improve their consumer experience, Mr. Cross suggests looking for vendors that can deliver an orchestrated experience. Having technology solutions in place at patient touch points is just one piece of the puzzle. It is also important for the solutions to help lead the patient to the next step in their journey.

For example, Change Healthcare designed a "shop, book, pay" tool to streamline the process of finding care. The tool moves patients from the shopping stage, giving them all the care options available to them, to the booking stage and then the payment phase. All the steps are included in a single experience, driving more bookings and more pre-payments, Mr. Cross said.

Providers should also look for vendors that are able to aggregate data from different sources so that they are able to offer a highly personalized experience to patients and anticipate their needs.

And finally, it is important for providers to find a vendor to assist with the transition from several best-of-breed technologies to a platform that can coordinate across all those technologies. This will help further personalize the patient experience and improve consistency of care.

To learn more about Change Healthcare, click here, and view the full webinar here.




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