The way consumers are looking for healthcare services and healthcare providers has been changing rapidly in recent years — especially after the pandemic. If before they were hostages of the services provided, today consumers already play a more active role concerning the healthcare they hire.
These changes are directly linked to healthcare consumerism, a movement that tries to make healthcare services more efficient and cheaper. This is done through new services and new technologies. But every change brings challenges for both providers and patients, and these are the main challenges faced in healthcare consumerism times.
The healthcare industry can be particularly confusing for the average consumer. While in the case of other sectors and services users can quickly and easily research the benefits they’re entitled to and their costs, with healthcare there’s a lot of disconnected information.
The total value of the bill can be a complete mystery until very late in the process. Then there are patients who refuse treatment just because they cannot know for sure how much it will cost them. The 21st-century consumer no longer has the patience to deal with these practices.
If before patients used to choose a healthcare service and be a customer for life, last year the Healthcare Consumer Trends Report revealed that 36% of users show complete indifference to famous companies when it comes to investing in healthcare. In addition, more than a third said they had no particular preference for any healthcare brand, choosing professionals as needed.
This is a result of the healthcare consumerism trend, which is meant to empower patients to have more influence and decision-making power over their healthcare. Now the providers themselves need to regain consumer trust by offering better care and improving patient outcomes while reducing costs and increasing efficiency.
There are several benefits of consumer empowerment:
- Medical providers are being forced to invest in technology to improve the patient experience, including digital information, online appointment management, telemedicine, etc.
- Digital health tools are also being utilized more by patients, who use them to access information about conditions, diagnoses, and treatments.
- Updated on their medical data and more familiar with the services, patients arrive at the hospital or clinic with better knowledge of their diagnosis and help professionals provide better care.
The Challenges of Healthcare Consumerism
Healthcare consumerism proposes to revolutionize the dynamics between users and providers, guaranteeing better information and more transparency.
However, it’s not all good news: the popularization of these practices also represents major challenges for healthcare providers and patients themselves. Let’s take a look at some aspects that still confuse both sides:
Patients are demanding a higher-quality service experience from their healthcare providers, as they are facing higher out-of-pocket healthcare costs.
Even with greater investments in technology, many users still have trouble accessing their options through online platforms or systems. This happens because these systems are outdated or aren’t designed in a user-friendly manner.
Providers and health facilities have been forced to adapt to the new healthcare consumerism-influenced processes so as not to run the risk of being left behind. This is the case with the adoption of electronic health records (EHRs), for example. Now hospital and clinic staff need to understand the functions and advantages of using EHRs to make healthcare more convenient for patients.
New markets are being honored to meet this new transition of valuing healthcare consumerism. This ends up jeopardizing the existence of older and more traditional healthcare providers like local neighborhood clinics. Likewise, older patients find it more difficult to deal with the new technologies at hand than younger consumers.
It’s generally easier to deal with a more informed customer. But in healthcare, this can also pose a great challenge. Especially when the doctor/specialist has to spend most of the time explaining why certain data and surveys “taken from the Internet” are not as accurate and real as the patient believes.
Putting the Patient First
More than just a trend, healthcare consumerism is here to stay by suggesting a more dynamic and fair relationship between healthcare users and providers. If in other sectors the customer is always right, putting the patient first should be the goal of every healthcare professional.
Remember that it is not enough just to invest in new tools, new technologies and change your business strategies. Providing quality care and showing your patients that you value them and care about their well-being is critical.
The profound transformations brought about by healthcare consumerism are still being assimilated and bring some challenges to be overcome. But in the end, everyone will benefit from a more efficient, transparent, and cost-oriented healthcare system.