Healthcare is facing a paradigm shift driven by consumer usage of technology. Increasing competition and compliance complexities have combined with the ever-present mobile device to change how doctors and patients interact, how we’re reimbursed, and how we compete in a crowded market. The old “if you build it they will come” strategies are gone as consumers shape new demands around transparency and convenience.
NRC Health recently discussed these trends in its 2019 Healthcare Consumer Trends Report. It sheds light on what we can expect in 2020 and in the years to come.
Consumerism in Healthcare
If HCAHPS scores are any indicator, health systems are responding to consumer demands. Deloitte says that healthcare organizations are responding to the push to drive consumer engagement by creating tools and strategies to help our patients become more involved in healthcare delivery. The Internet provides the backbone for many of these models, and consumers use it frequently for everything from tracking their daily steps with wearable devices to researching what patients have to say about your doctors.
There is a critical component to value based care that involves the engagement of healthcare consumers. Population health management theories next to the heart of this trend, and most commercial health payers and industry stakeholders say that improved outcomes and reduced spending are possible with increased consumer engagement.
But how can hospitals increase consumer engagement in their health outcomes? What is it, exactly, that our patients want and how can clinicians deliver it?
Those were the foundational questions supporting NRC Health’s national survey of more hundreds of thousands of households across the nation earlier this year. Here’s what the research showed us.
Findings From The Study
The survey gathered millions of responses from consumers. It found, first, that our patients appreciate the nurses and doctors providing care:
- 87% praised the courtesy and respect shown by clinical teams in healthcare settings.
- 53% reported positive clinical communications between patients and doctors.
However, 26% of patients said they were concerned that clinicians didn’t know enough about their prior health episodes, despite the use of an electronic health record designed to capture those details.
While praise for clinicians as service delivery providers was high, the American healthcare consumer isn’t as happy with their experiences of the service levels in clinical settings:
- 77% of patients are frustrated by long wait times.
- While clinical encounters were reported as primarily positive, 67% of survey participants said they felt disrespected by non-clinical administrative staff.
It should be noted that administrative tasks typically include the difficult job of collecting high deductible co-pays, or past due payments. Administrative staff also must take patients through the complexities of insurance coverage; the survey showed this process and the underlying insurance system satisfies just 26% of Americans. *
The study pointed out that today’s consumer experience of healthcare is split:
“On the one hand, they can’t say enough good things about their providers, and feel well-treated by the clinicians who care for them. On the other hand, their encounters with ancillary parts of the care experience—support staff, waiting rooms, billing, etc.—leave much to be desired.”
The big question for providers now should be, what do these findings say about our patients’ relationships with our healthcare brands?
*It is safe to assume that many clinicians are also frustrated by the complexities of insurance reimbursement.
Convenience Is Key To Your Brand
The study found that the American healthcare consumer considers our work “a married of convenience.” Consumers characterized the relationship with the American healthcare system on the whole as a “love/hate” relationship. How, then, can doctors influence consumer behaviors when they come so reluctantly into the healthcare care delivery paradigm.
The answer is to provide patients with increasingly easy access to care.
The study showed that 51.3% of consumers say convenient care is the most important factor in their chose of providers. It matters more than brand reputation (39.8%), more than care quality (34.6%), more than the interpersonal interactions they had with clinicians (44.2%), and even more than insurance coverage (46.4%).
The study showed that 80% of Americans choose their care strictly by how convenient it is to access services.
It seems the importance of the provider/patient relationship is declining. How can hospitals and medical practices continue to compete in this convenience and commodity-driven healthcare environment?
How Hospitals Are Responding
Healthcare providers must now work harder to attract and retain consumers, who demand greater access and convenience. Expect providers to continue to respond with greater flexibility in operating hours, more user-friendly technology platforms, greater transparency in pricing, and increased information sharing.
A nationwide survey of key healthcare executive leaders found that the most consistent response to these trends is through digital transformation. The survey showed that in the next 12-months, nearly 50% of healthcare organizations will invest in a technology initiative to track consumer engagement and operational performance improvement.
This desire for greater convenience to care has fueled the growth of minute clinics and other retail health outlets, which have burgeoned by 500% since 2006. Primary care office visits have declined substantially, and most studies suggest that the millennial generation eschews a preferred family practice provider for the convenience of urgent care. Physicians Practice says 45% of this population, which now outnumbers the baby boomers in the workplace, does not have a family practice provider.
Telemedicine has also grown substantially in the past decade. Almost 60% of employers offer some form of digital virtual visit to their employees. The American Medical Association (AMA) states that telehealth utilization rates went up by 53% between 2016 and 2017—and usage rates are speeding up. Bringing the doctor to the patient in a virtual house call solves the issue of access, convenience, and ultimately, patient engagement; which, according to the 2019 Healthcare Consumer Trends Report, is exactly what our consumers want.
Patient Engagement In The Orthopedic Practice
Orthopedic providers are not immune to these trends. Although many providers have been slow to adapt to telehealth trends, we believe digital technology can provide your practice with a competitive advantage in a rapidly evolving consumer-driven market. Talk to the OrthoLive team about how our HIPAA-compliant, low-cost telehealth service can position your practice for the future.