Patients aren’t just patients anymore – they’re consumers.

Patients won’t sit back and accept the first option presented to them now. People are becoming informed decision makers regarding their policies, pharmaceutical options, and health care providers.

As premiums and deductibles rise, patients want more visibility into the services they’re receiving and where their money is going. That’s not all though. There’s a higher demand for seamless interfaces and personalized interactions at each stage of the patient journey. Blame it on the UX and CX advancements in tech, retail, travel, and so on. But people expect a personalized, thought out patient experience – or else they’ll look elsewhere.

Consumerism is permeating throughout the healthcare industry. Healthcare providers and payers who don’t adjust will lag behind.

According to Change Healthcare’s 2020 industry report, a mere 18% of providers and 24% of payers are implementing a full-consumer centric strategy. In all fairness, 70% of providers and 76% of payers are either working on a consumer-centric strategy or have begun implementing an intermediate one. So there’s movement, at least.

But there’s a silver lining to the slow adoption of full-blown consumer-centric strategies: the opportunity for providers and payers to gain a competitive advantage.

The need for a consumer-centric strategy

Expectations have been raised, and they won’t be easy for healthcare companies to meet.

Rolling out a prettier website won’t add enough value. Companies can’t expect to slap a Band-Aid on the matter and call it a day. Business models will have to be reformulated altogether. The entire care process must be streamlined for efficiency across each and every touchpoint, from care evaluation to payments to customer service.

This will require holistic process changes and cross-vertical collaboration (IT, customer service, administration, etc.).

Possible improvements

Aside from a big picture shift, what can be done on a more granular level?

Change Healthcare surveyed providers, payers, healthcare consultants, etc. to measure the anticipated impact of certain healthcare process improvements.

Some of the top financial and billing improvements that respondents believe will drive higher consumer satisfaction are:

  • Plain-language explanations of benefits (EOBs) and simplified invoicing
  • Consolidated billing from multiple providers
  • Elimination of surprise billing

Some of the top operational non-clinical improvements that respondents believe will drive consumer satisfaction are:

  • Online appointment scheduling
  • Medical information in layman’s terms
  • Consumer access to electronic health records and provider notes
  • Telehealth or other remote access options
  • Non-clinical services (e.g. nutrition)

Take these into consideration when you’re tinkering with your consumer strategy. In addition to the above, don’t forget to collect feedback from those who are less in the weeds – your patients customers.