Consumer-Driven Trends Present Opportunities Across The Healthcare Journey

Christina Mattina

Industries including healthcare continue to adapt to the increasingly powerful voice of the consumer, according to Venkat Inumella, MBA, associate partner at McKinsey, who discussed this trend toward consumerism during the first keynote session of the National Association of Managed Care Physicians Fall Managed Care Forum 2017.

Inumella kicked off his session by noting that every single audience member is a consumer. Unlike more niche topics like gene therapies, consumerism is an idea that is easy for all to relate to. Companies are also adjusting to consider it “the new normal,” as 73% of marketers consider customer-centricity to be critical to the success of their business.

Today's empowered consumer desires a consistent experience that is personalized across channels and easily accessible at anytime, Inumella said. As the bar for satisfaction rises in each domain, the consumer’s expectations for all other industries rise as well; their best experience with one company or service becomes a benchmark for all others.

Particularly in healthcare, the growing share of spending borne by the consumer is contributing to rising consumer power. Simply put, “people expect more when they pay more,” Inumella explained. This trend has also resulted in consumers prizing value instead of just price. For instance, the proportion of Marketplace enrollees who cited “lowest premium price” as the most important factor in their choosing a plan declined from 60% in 2014 to 24% in 2016. Instead, respondents are more likely to be aware of the metal tier of their plan.

Another trend in consumerism is the value that shoppers place on convenience, which has been evidenced by the growing number of retail clinic visitors. Inumella also highlighted the fact that around 70% of consumers prefer digital solutions over traditional, paper-based processes across their health journey, from signing up for a health plan (68%) to financing their care (79%) by paying insurance bills online to maintaining their health (71%) through automated tools like prescription refills.

Consumers have also shown that they seek out an experience that is personalized for simplicity, especially when dealing with a topic as complex and confusing as health. Inumella pointed out that the most well understood services have the highest usage rate; 89% of survey respondents were familiar with digital appointment reminders and 55% had used them, whereas there were significantly lower levels of understanding and usage for services like telehealth visits.

Finally, consumers want to feel supported throughout their healthcare journey by relying on trusted advisors. There are many opportunities for healthcare providers and organizations to develop preferred relationships with consumers instead of treating the experience like a simple transaction, Inumella said. In a survey, 63% of respondents said they had a preferred pharmacy and 57% had a preferred primary care provider, but those rates dropped off sharply for less frequently used settings like children’s hospitals or in-store clinics.

Overall, what determines a great experience is not a patient’s healthcare expectations, but their experiences as a consumer across all sectors. As they witness a shift towards convenience and value in their daily lives, they begin to demand the same from their healthcare. When ranking which businesses have set the bar for having a consumer focus, Inumella said, shoppers reported that healthcare companies should aspire to be more like Amazon, Google, and Apple, but also like Chick-fil-a, a fast food restaurant known for its customer service and strong brand loyalty.

Although they may understand these broad concepts of what consumers want, most healthcare organizations are not ready to become leaders in the new consumer-centered paradigm, Inumella said. They were designed for efficiency and stability, and thus lack the speed and flexibility that would allow them to adapt to shifting customer demands. They may respond with “quick fixes” like mobile apps or other tweaks, but becoming truly consumer-centric requires a holistic view across the entire healthcare journey.

By tapping into the consumer mindset as they choose their insurance plan, care setting, and physicians, healthcare organizations can improve the experience by making it more efficient and personalized. This can then influence patients’ health behaviors and engagement, leading to improved population health, better quality and outcomes, and a return on their investment into this process.

Finally, Inumella advised listeners to “be bold and challenge tradition.” He displayed a quote from Wilhelm II, the last German emperor, declaring that “The automobile is a transitory phenomenon.” By displaying this kind of resistance to change, health systems will be unable to keep up with the transformative changes in the market as consumers take on a more important role.
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