One of the major transformations in healthcare today centers on the development of the patient as a consumer. Patients are driving a demand for increased connectivity with their providers, and have a growing expectation for convenient and customizable care.
As the consumerization of healthcare continues to evolve, the patient will play a larger role in overall healthcare IT strategy. As a result, health IT vendors will need to address changing consumer demands in an age of instant gratification and convenience. What are the driving forces behind this shift?
The influence of big-name brands
The impetus of the commercialization of healthcare can be attributed to the movement of big-name consumer giants into the healthcare space. The introduction of brands such as Amazon, CVS, and Walmart into the healthcare landscape has provided consumers with a different lens into the industry. These consumer-facing companies identified a fragmented industry that did not appeal to the end-user in realistic ways. By connecting everyday consumer names with one’s health, these organizations are driving greater awareness of the healthcare delivery options available and demand for more patient-centric care.
Today’s patients are becoming more knowledgeable about healthcare products and industry conversations than ever before. The consumer’s watchful eye and newfound purchasing power will have a dramatic impact on how companies position their brand and engage with those they serve.
Impact on innovation
As consumers become more educated about their healthcare options, gaps in care delivery will become evident and ultimately drive innovation. We have seen this cycle happen repeatedly in the technology and entertainment industries. Twenty years ago, we had flip phones with spotty service, or local movie rental stores with overdue fees. Now, we have smart phones with unquestioned connectivity, and streaming services to access our favorite movies or TV shows with a few clicks of a mouse.
With consumers more aware of healthcare’s inefficiencies and pitfalls, healthcare is mimicking this shift, working to meet consumers where they are and eliminate elements of inconvenience. For example, the traditional inpatient-centric hospital model has been disrupted, with providers and patients alike realizing the benefits of remote patient monitoring, enabling care delivery in their homes or on the go. The rapid adoption of personal medical alert devices, where one’s daily health decisions – from sleep, to diet, to exercise – can now be tracked and counted, giving providers unprecedented visibility into their patient’s wellbeing.
Over time, we will see this cycle tackle other gaps in care, as consumers become more interested in issues such as cost visibility or access to their health records. One current gap is services for the aging population – by 2030, people age 65 and older will outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history, with one in five Americans at retirement age. Patient-centric innovation geared toward this population is already booming. Another example is the cost of care – 40% of Americans age 18-64 have a high-deductible health plan, and this is expected to increase in the coming years. As patients become more cost conscious, we will see innovation in the form of alternative payment choices.
As consumers become more educated, they also become more engaged. This trend will empower patients to be well versed in their own health and care options, and lead healthier lives. All industry stakeholders, patient-facing or not, will feel increased pressure to meet the expectations connected to healthcare consumerization. As consumers continue to ask the difficult questions and make seemingly hard-to-meet demands, innovation and collaboration among health IT companies will lead the way toward a truly patient-centric care model.