Working Toward a More Consumer-Friendly Healthcare Experience

Healthcare patients are widely dissatisfied. According to a survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), less than half (49%) of consumers feel satisfied with their overall consumer experience.

More transparency, value and customer service are what most consumers are looking for, says PwC. The dissatisfaction gives new companies a chance to enter the $2.8 trillion U.S. healthcare market, as many survey respondents indicated they’d be willing to trust nontraditional companies with their healthcare.

As the healthcare landscape ultimately changes, companies will need to realize that it is no longer possible to maintain the status quo. Those in healthcare management positions have to map out new strategies to ensure they can keep consumers happy.

Healthcare organizations and insurers will need to work to separate themselves from the competition by focusing on three things: consumer choice, consumer engagement and consumer experience.

Making Healthcare Convenient for Consumers

Around 40% of survey responders indicated they would be willing to buy health services from a large retail store, while 38% said they would use a company like Google or Amazon.

In other words, many Americans would feel comfortable visiting a health clinic inside of a Target or purchasing healthcare insurance packages from Amazon. This indicates a shift within the industry – consumers want the ability to make their own choices, and they feel that benefits and care from these companies would come at a lower cost to them. Consumers also tend to view these types of stores in a positive light.

One of the more telling revelations from PwC is that those who responded to the survey under age 45 strongly showed that they prefer digital ways to manage their health instead of visiting a provider or getting a phone call.

However, implementing these digital solutions may take time, according to a study from Deloitte.

“The health care industry as a whole is digitally immature compared to other industries, and it will take time for health care players to develop the usability and connectivity that will make digital assets more effective and more valuable to consumers, and therefore drive more adoption,” the study said.

Another issue may be the fact that older generations aren’t a fan of virtual healthcare – 47% of seniors surveyed by PwC said they hate the idea.

Increasing Consumer Engagement

The healthcare consumer faces a unique battle – they aren’t performing one transaction with a merchant and moving on to another one. More often than not, they are visiting the same place multiple times, and they have many options to choose while utilizing health insurance that may or may not cover their procedures. They may feel overwhelmed by these choices, as more than a third of PwC survey respondents indicated they rely on friends and family to keep them accountable for health management. Additionally, half of the respondents said they would probably have less healthy lifestyles if they didn’t have people in their lives pushing them to stay well.

These trends, according to PwC, show that communication with the consumer needs to involve a “whole person” care model where healthcare providers work with states, communities and others to gather information. When a chronic illness patient lets treatments slip, that can become a costly mistake – for both the patient and the insurer.

If providers can work with other agencies to make data-driven decisions on consumers, they can then work to increase consumers’ quality of life and help them feel more invested in their healthcare plans.

The Future of Health Plans

These trends mean that providers and insurers will have to adapt to stay competitive with other nontraditional outlets. Today’s healthcare consumer wants the freedom to make choices so they can have better experiences. By changing the way service is provided, insurers and healthcare organizations can work to keep consumers satisfied.

Cost transparency will be key, before and after care is provided. Additionally, barriers to care should be removed in segments and making digital a priority will be paramount.

“Those that are successful can enable lower-cost and higher-quality care, creating more loyal customer and generating mutual value,” according to Deloitte.

The scope is already shifting – recently, Amazon announced intentions to partner with firms Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan Chase to create a new healthcare company for their U.S. employees, reported  The New York Times. These prominent corporations could potentially set a model for other businesses to follow, which means insurers and providers will need to closely follow this case for further developments to see how it may affect them in the future.

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