The continued growth of high-deductible health plans and increasing out-of-pocket costs are driving patients to carefully consider their healthcare costs. One of the challenges for consumers is that getting estimates for out-of-pocket costs takes too long. The estimates can also be inaccurate—frequently, organizations offer estimates based on historical charges, rather than providing a customized price quote based on the patient’s specific obligations.
Today’s consumers are accustomed to turning to their phones to find answers at a moments notice. “Other industries have primed the pump for healthcare consumers to expect on-demand responses, digital tools and impeccable customer service,” said Christopher Kerns, Managing Director at The Advisory Board. “Patients are regularly disappointed by their healthcare experiences today; in fact, in 85 percent of patient-reported scenarios, consumers are pushed away from their primary care providers because of a negative experience. In today’s healthcare marketplace, consumers expect to be able to search for, evaluate and utilize care in the most seamless way possible.”
There is a growing movement in healthcare toward improved customer experiences and cost transparency, due to two root causes.
“First, consumers increasingly want health systems to help them find the right provider at the right price,” said Kerns. “Second, transparency is being forced upon healthcare organizations by innovators and state governments who are lifting the veil on provider costs and quality performance. When health systems do not provide transparency on their own terms, they run the risk that the information is incorrect or incomplete.”
To deliver on the demand for greater transparency, a more effective consumer strategy requires providers to drastically change the way they measure and collect data internally. “The many operational, financial and clinical metrics tracked today are almost entirely provider-centric,” Kerns stated. “As the industry moves toward greater transparency, consumers will be looking for data that is relevant to them. The use of methodologies like patient-reported outcomes will become more important. In addition…socioeconomic data, psychosocial data and even genomic data can help providers work in tandem with consumers to personalize and tailor their care plans.” This type of integrated, patient-specific data can help inform the shared decision-making process—effectively enhancing care while delivering an all-around better patient experience.
To succeed in this new marketplace, health systems must deliver a simpler user experience. In every other industry, it is easy to understand what something costs and how to pay for it. Moving toward a more straightforward presentation of patient costs can help organizations align with what consumers expect in all of their other shopping experiences.
For health systems to create this more positive and seamless experience, Kerns said, “They must be able to answer two fundamental consumer questions: ‘Whom should I see?’ and ‘How much will this cost?’ Ultimately it is up to the health system to connect the information they provide to an actionable next step that converts the shopper to a patient.”
The era of Big Data is creating massive disruption—and opportunity. In the healthcare industry, a data-driven customer experience can deliver the transparency consumers seek while improving care and generating increased business and patient loyalty. Data creates competitive advantages, and the healthcare organizations that recognize data’s value to their patients—and to their business operations—will be the organizations leading the industry into its data-driven future.
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