The Evolution of Healthcare Into a Consumer-Driven Industry

By Delaney Sheppard

When it comes to healthcare, the days of one provider fits all have ended. 

The pandemic has quickly accelerated the "completion" of healthcare: patients increasingly behave more like consumers in their healthcare relationships. And healthcare is increasingly focusing on patients who act more like consumers and customers as they seek the best treatment at the most affordable cost. Acquisition and satisfaction have long dominated other industries. As the industry evolves due to severe price pressures, the Affordable Care Act, technological advances, a new focus on prevention, health system mergers, and a host of other factors, it is becoming clear that success depends in part on customer-centric strategies. This is true whether the goal is to get millions of uninsured people to participate in government exchanges or keep nearby medical centers running normally. 

New Models Demand New Tech

As consumers take on a more active role in health care decision-making, models are emerging that put the interests and needs of customers at their center. Professor Charles Wilson from Harvard University's business and public health institutions is an expert on this topic. He has argued for patient-centered care strategies based on his research with both organizations. Over time, he discovered how people want to be heard when deciding on treatment and whether they should receive it together (for example, surgery vs. medication).  

Through these initiatives, the health sector has formally shifted its focus on the patient, creating a coordinated and concerted effort by all stakeholders in the health sector to deliver more effective and efficient care. Healthcare personalization can now be expanded to predict potential health risks and provide real-time, 24/7 remote assistance. This ability has led to new wearable health monitoring devices that connect people with healthcare providers, professionals, and insurance companies. The introduction of wearable biometric devices that provide patients with information about their health and telemedicine applications make it easy for patients to access health care no matter where they live.    

The healthcare sector is constantly evolving from politics to patients and everything else. With new technologies focused on monitoring, research, and care availability, patients will play a more active role in their care. The healthcare sector must be aware of the latest medical developments and how these healthcare services are delivered to an increasingly demanding consumer market. This evolution has prompted healthcare professionals to seek technological tools that would help them understand the needs of their patients and, ultimately, provide them with personalized care.   

Cultural changes, treatment costs, and policy adjustments have been the major contributing factors to a kinder, gentler, and more patient-centered shift in care over the past century. Even though institutional policies and procedures may constrain how and when new technologies are introduced, advanced technologies are expected to play an increasingly important role in our healthcare system in the coming years. The future of healthcare is likely to be driven by different patient populations and their associated needs for care, which will result in more effective delivery. With informed patients and appropriate technology, physicians can deliver effective care and coordinate with the physician community. This consumer-oriented nature may also help increase the number of touchpoints needed at any one time - providing a path for behavioral change and improved outcomes.

The Shift to Consumer-Oriented Healthcare

Healthcare ecosystems hold tremendous potential for the same and can lead to better health outcomes and convenience by offering a personalized, intuitive and integrated patient experience. Such innovations can significantly improve the quality of service for healthcare professionals, leading to a higher customer satisfaction index and increased profits. The healthcare industry is moving towards value-based care, coupled with growing consumption, making it imperative to offer retail services that retain and attract both patients and members. Facilities that treat cancer operate neonatal intensive care units and handle most patients' data face unique challenges in developing client-centric strategies.   

To improve the quality of customer service in healthcare, we first need to understand what the healthcare consumer needs, which is often different from what we think. Digital tools can help address some of these issues - patients/consumers are becoming more open to them, especially from their primary care provider (PCP) - including telemedicine, appointment reminders, email/online communications, and electronic medical records. Add that to the unavailability of health data, the fact that healthcare is a "buy of grudge,"and that consumers cannot truly judge health services until they have already experienced them. Although the industry has been talking about consumer-centric practices for at least a decade, healthcare is still in the dawn of its consumer era. With the advent of digital innovations such as the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML), the healthcare industry has redefined the customer experience. Today's patients are consumers in retail, hospitality, and other sectors, where it is common to tailor solutions to their needs, even in various industries, including healthcare and banking. While healthcare plans may not be as flexible as ordering a personalized hamburger, telemedicine solutions, wearable devices, digital portals, and the dissemination of health information online offer patients more personalized treatment options than ever before. Even government agencies are getting into the game, investing in digital health records, and contributing to a consumer-oriented healthcare sector. 

Mental health management continues to tackle psychological and psychiatric resource scarcity in person, but consumers and patients can now benefit from innovative models of care. An impressive initiative is a pilot in the United States between the National Board of Behavioral Health, the American Pharmacists Association, and Walgreens to train pharmacy staff in mental health first aid. The project aims to improve overall mental health outcomes and take the pharmacist's role as a healthcare professional into a new dimension. This initiative means introducing new tools and services, especially digital ones, ensuring the interoperability of data in the interests of consumers through the convenience of single access to data, investing in virtual health technologies and training doctors in their use, and creating more hotspots to improve health outcomes. To cope with our evolving regulatory environment, changing patient expectations, and initiating value-based care, healthcare systems must continue to adapt and interact with their patients as consumers and understand that consumers in this space will have the right to dictate. Tracking the key trends driving consumer decisions is integral to the success of healthcare professionals and the health of their patients.    

A Massive Opportunity

In both the financial and high-tech sectors, explosive opportunities have paved the way for today's consumer market. And now that the health sector has a pressing need to follow a new model with different economic dimensions, health professionals can use these tools and opportunities to innovate, increase productivity, lower cost, and improve the customer experience and satisfaction. The consolidation in the banking sector in the 1990s serves as a valuable illustration of the degree of a structural shift that market and regulatory change can catalyze and underline the need for incumbents to support transformation rather than continuing to follow old rules. The good news is a disruptive combination of low margins and a shift in consumer mentality could finally open the door to broader use of technology and the development of new business models. This shift will allow the US healthcare industry to capitalize on competition and innovation's most comprehensive technological and political forces. 

Why Originate?

Healthcare organizations are tasked with providing patient care. But what if you had an opportunity to rethink your approach to provide a better customer experience? We're not just talking about how patients feel when they walk into your facility - we mean all along their journey from discovery through recovery and beyond. What would happen if you shifted your focus on delivering quality care that meets each person's individual needs? How might this change in mindset impact outcomes for both providers and consumers? These are questions our team is exploring every day at Originate. 

If you want to learn more about how automation and AI can help you drive better consumer and employee experiences, drop us a note today!