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News & Press: Industry News

The 9 Trends of Health Consumerism

Wednesday, July 10, 2019   (0 Comments)
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Written for AAOE by Ken Robbins, CEO, Response Mine Health

Health consumerism is taking the healthcare industry by storm. Unlike in the old days, when patients blindly followed their physicians' recommendations, today's health consumers are much more engaged and empowered. The rules of the game have drastically changed, as patients have placed themselves in the driver's seat. In response to these trends, healthcare service providers must transform themselves and change the way they do business to meet the unique needs and wants of their clientele.

Rising healthcare costs, growing consumer expectations, and innovative technologies have all contributed to the radical transformation of the healthcare sector. As patient experience, cost, and quality of care take center stage, the industry is forced to change the way it delivers and distributes care.

To better explain how this massive transformation led by health consumerism is revolutionizing the health sector, it is essential to take a close look at the 9 trends that are shaping the industry.

1.   Self-Diagnosis

Instead of rushing to the doctor's office, more and more people attempt to diagnose themselves by tapping into the expertise of Dr. Google. This growing trend of self-diagnosis has been propelled by the sharp rise in healthcare costs and the lack of price transparency for medical services. Hidden fees and surprise bills make consumers think twice about setting foot in a hospital or getting diagnostic testing done.

Due in large part to the increase in prices of prescription medicines, 20 to 30 percent of new scripts never even get filled. Medication adherence has been on the decline, which is a concern, as it has been associated with higher morbidity, mortality, and hospitalization.

Action Step: Take price transparency and patient experience seriously. Make these a priority at all levels of your organization. Being upfront about the cost of services will help you earn the trust of your patients and build strong relationships with them for the long term.


2. Alternatives and Substitutes

A growing segment of the population has concerns about the potential side effects associated with the use of prescription medications. According to a 2012 survey, 38 percent of American adults use regularly non-mainstream medical approaches, with dietary supplements being the most widely utilized form of complementary health approach.

Action Step: Take the time to understand the trend and the opportunity that lies in the growing interest in complementary healing methods. Keep an open mind, as the popularity of health approaches outside of western medicine is expected to grow.


3. Clean Eating

Diet and lifestyle are at the root of many chronic diseases. More people are beginning to understand that eating healthfully is fundamental to good health and demand access to healthy, organic foods. People are getting tired of being sick all the time and are actively looking for reliable information about how they can change their eating habits.

Action Step: Help consumers find ways to improve their eating habits by providing them with trustworthy information. The same way retailers responded to the needs of a health-conscious population by expanding the choices of organic food options, providers can also do a lot by encouraging a healthy way of eating and connecting patients with experts in the field of diet and nutrition.


4. Elite Fitness

As health consumers become more empowered and engaged in their health, they begin to understand how costly and troublesome chronic disease management is. Instead of spending their hard-earned dollars on doctor's visits, more people are choosing to take their health into their own hands, join a gym, and start a new health chapter in their lives. This trend is demonstrated in the fact that gym memberships have grown significantly over the years, and the trend is expected to continue.

Action Step: Offering a hand to your patients as they begin swapping some of their unhealthy habits for more health-promoting ones is an excellent way to strengthen relationships and establish trust.


5. Medical Shopping

Shopping around for the best deal in healthcare is becoming standard practice. This trend of bargain-hunting is completely understandable, considering the sharp increase in high-deductible insurance plans, that have shifted a more substantial portion of the financial burden onto the patient. Some people look for the highest quality care, some for the lowest price, while others look for the bells and whistles, and fantastic patient experiences. 

The most challenging part of this journey is to get the correct information, as there is no single place that's considered to be the most reliable. It often takes quite a bit of legwork for patients to put the puzzle pieces together, by calling insurance companies, conducting online research and negotiating with institutions themselves.

Action Step: Give accurate information on your website. Create online tools for patients to get price quotes for diagnostic services, so there are no unpleasant surprises. Offer competitive self-pay rates to make your services available to those without health insurance.


6. Applification

Smart technology is revolutionizing how healthcare is delivered. Health apps are rapidly gaining popularity in the health and wellness space, as they empower consumers to start taking responsibility for their health Thanks to the various functions apps can fulfill, consumers use them for multiple reasons, such as for education, weight management, goal setting, and more.

Action Step: Consider creating an app for your consumers to help them on their health journey. A well-designed app can not only help you improve patient experience, but also foster communication between your patients and your organization.


7. Price Transparency

The drastic increase in premiums, copays, and out-of-pocket healthcare expensive left millions fearful and confused about how they should navigate the stormy waters of healthcare. People often delay necessary medical care or avoid them altogether, because of the uncertainty surrounding the cost for services.

Action Step: Healthcare organizations must be upfront and straightforward about the price and value of the services they render. There should be no gimmicks and no surprises. Full transparency is necessary to gain trust and encourage patient loyalty. 


8. Undoctoring

Today, information is available to anyone, anywhere at any time. This free access to information has facilitated the process of undoctoring, where patients educate themselves about how they can best prevent, treat, or manage their health conditions. With the help of the internet, consumers are becoming their own quarterback and form their own team.

Action Step: Healthcare service providers often make the mistake of disregarding patients' understanding of their conditions. Physicians must recognize that their patients often have a solid understanding of their disease and a clear idea of how they'd like to approach it. 


9. User Experience

Patient experience is in the center of health consumerism. While other important factors also drive the movement, user experience is truly at its core. Providing exceptional care ties in firmly with personalized care. Health consumers are not interested in one-size-fits-all approaches, they look for an efficient and streamlined healthcare experience that is focused on addressing their unique needs.

Action Step: Remember that providing fantastic patient experience must be an all-encompassing strategy that patients can feel at every single touchpoint. From convenient parking, polite, and professional staff to a user-friendly website, strive to keep your consumers' needs and wants at the forefront.


Action Steps to Thrive in the New Era

In this new era of health consumerism, staying competitive requires most organizations to make serious adjustments to the way they’ve historically been delivering their services. Here are some of the action steps you can take to ensure success in the new era of health consumerism.

  • Hospitals must move away from the traditional business-to-business approach and adopt a business-to-consumer mindset.
  • Engage with patients in ways that are relevant to them.
  • Deliver healthcare services the way patients want to receive them.
  • Focus on the entire patient experience, instead of just patients' symptoms.
  • Aim to provide superior patient experience form first touchpoint to last.
  • Understand the unique needs and wants of your consumers.
  • Foster an attitude of service at all levels of your organization.


About the Author

Ken Robbins is the CEO of Response Mine Health, a marketing agency that helps healthcare and wellness companies grow their new customers and patients.  Ken’s team serve clients like Mayo Clinic, The Emory Clinic and Back Pain Centers of America. Ken has been featured in Strategic Health Care Marketing, Healthcare Dive and the Journal of mHealth.

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