4 consumerism trends from HFMA

Technology and market conditions are changing consumers' expectations in ways that will force health systems to approach patients as customers — or risk losing market share to their more progressive competitors.

The Healthcare Financial Management Association published the second report in a series of four, called Health Care 2020. In the latest chapter, HFMA examines the increasing impact of consumerism on healthcare business trends and recommends guidance for industry stakeholders looking toward value-based care.

For the report, HFMA defined consumerism as "a trend that reflects the growing importance of consumer choice in the healthcare marketplace."

Below are four trends.

1. Consumer choice and population health. Informed by their experience in commercial retail, consumers expect transparency and choice in their healthcare experience. Providers and health plans are appropriating tools and techniques from other service-oriented industries to connect with, and disseminate information among, consumers. Addressing consumer expectations is critically important to making the transition between volume-based and value-based care delivery, HFMA argues. Hospitals and health plans increase their chances of successfully managing a patient population by keeping those patients within their delivery system. Meeting consumer's needs and expectations is key to cultivating patient loyalty.

2. Health ownership. In an outcomes-based delivery model, health plans, healthcare providers and healthcare consumers have a financial incentive to promote health and well-being. Increased cost-sharing under high-deductible health plans encourages consumers to consciously direct and control their healthcare spending. Yet many Americans lack basic healthcare literacy. Healthcare organizations are increasingly responsible for providing the education, information and tools consumers need to take ownership of their health.

3. Consumer insights. Consumer insights and consumer-preference research are standard components of retail and service industries. As healthcare organizations refocus delivery efforts to meet consumer expectations, healthcare leaders need to understand and target the unique preferences of their particular demographic populations. For instance, convenient access to care may mean different things to different consumers. Some patients prefer to see a physician at a retail health clinic, others prefer a video consultation with a physician and some choose to see a physician in a traditional office setting.

4. Quality feedback. To adopt new consumer-driven strategies, hospitals need ways to gather and analyze patient feedback. "Every single day, every time we talk to a patient we are not only addressing their issue or inquiry, we are also asking them for more information about what would they like to see occur, whether it is with scheduling, registration, collections, the service itself, patient statements, etc.," Donna Graham, executive director of revenue cycle at Cleveland-based MetroHealth System, told HFMA.

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