Why providers must see patients as consumers
About 80 percent of what affects health outcomes happens outside of a provider’s office. In addition, at any given time, only 15 percent of the people in a population are in a “patient state”; the other 85 percent are in a “consumer mode.” This research—cited by presenters during a March webinar sponsored by Concentrix Catalyst—suggests that to affect the health of most individuals, it is necessary to meet them where they are as consumers.
During the webinar, which was hosted by Becker’s Hospital Review, a panel of healthcare experts from different organizations shared their perspectives on how consumer choice is reshaping healthcare. Panelists were:
- John Conmy, managing director, healthcare experience, Concentrix Catalyst
- Kathleen McGrow, DNP, RN, chief nursing information officer, Microsoft
- Tom Swanson, healthcare strategic marketing, Adobe
- Julie Wotruba, senior director, strategy insights, Concentrix Catalyst
Four key takeaways:
Multiple forces are driving healthcare’s consumer disruption. Among the drivers of disruption are more information available at consumers’ fingertips than ever (from sources like Fitbit, Google, Apple Health) and falling barriers to competition. Concentrix Catalyst’s 2021 omnibus study of 1,000 healthcare consumers found they “trust retailers like CVS, Walgreens, Walmart and Target, and even Google and Amazon, almost as much as they do Mayo Clinic,” Mr. Conmy said. Other disruptive factors include telemedicine, digital wellness platforms, COVID-19, consumer price sensitivity because of high-deductible plans, a flood of venture capital into healthcare startups and healthcare’s own “Great Resignation,” which is breaking providers’ ties with patients and giving patients a reason to explore alternatives.
Providers need to better understand their audience. Consumer behaviors and expectations have changed across all industries, but healthcare is lagging. Consumers value organizations that deliver well-orchestrated, relevant experiences. But they also value convenience, relevance and personalization, which are typically more accessible outside of large healthcare organizations.
Age is no longer a barrier to digital adoption. While COVID-19 clearly made telemedicine a mainstay, its widespread adoption spanned ages and demographic groups, including older people who, in general, previously expected a traditional patient-provider relationship. “When they were the most vulnerable to the pandemic … we saw a massive shift to where now they behave in essentially the same way as middle-aged and young folks,” Mr. Swanson said.
Providers must understand that their patients are also consumers. Concentrix Catalyst used data from its study to segment consumers into three groups or profiles. “We consider this a starting point; each of these profiles helps us understand a broad tendency of U.S. consumers around healthcare,” Ms. Wotruba said. The profiles are:
- Reactives are younger, healthier, digitally native consumers who seek care only when necessary.
- Controllers are older, more habit-driven individuals who value personal interaction and are proactive in their healthcare.
- Seekers are middle-aged consumers who are comfortable with technology and interested in maintaining their health.
“I don’t think we necessarily really know the consumer and understand the consumer as a consumer, not as a patient,” Ms. McGrow said. “And they’re very different things.”
The pandemic and other disrupters have radically changed healthcare in recent years. For providers to flourish requires a change in mindset and a deeper understanding of patients as consumers.