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Environments
HEALTHCARE IN THE AGE OF EXPERIENCE PART 1
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by EDUARDO ALVAREZ

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Find out what Healthcare can learn from the Financial industry to create innovative customer experiences.

Choice abounds for consumers across nearly every industry today, and Healthcare is the next big industry ripe for change.

What do you expect when you go to the doctor’s office? If you said long wait times, little time with the doctor and uncertain outcomes, you’re not alone. In fact, GE Healthcare’s Camden Group reports that, “An alarming 81% of consumers are unsatisfied with their healthcare experience, and the happiest consumers are those who interact with the system the least.” The report goes further to say that, “75% of frequent healthcare consumers are frustrated, 48% of those who access healthcare less frequently, are frustrated as well.” But why are consumers so dissatisfied with their healthcare experiences? In an era when innovation and customized offerings are being delivered in unique ways across myriad industries, healthcare lags behind in the delivery of satisfaction to the patients who need them most.

In days past, when you got sick, you’d visit your local doctor down the street in your small town. Oftentimes, you knew your doctor personally and had a friendly relationship with them; after all, you probably saw them regularly at the local festival or community potluck. As population centers grew and people started migrating away from their hometowns, the needs increased for an efficient healthcare delivery system that could treat larger numbers of people with the latest medical advancements.

“At the time when scientific progress was revolutionizing the prevention and treatment of disease, the personalized delivery of that innovation to the patient was sacrificed at the altar of efficiency.”

The need to treat more people, more quickly, with the latest advancements left healthcare consumers with an unfortunate side-effect – an impersonal experience focused more on solving a medical problem than on treating a person.

Fast-forward to today. Choice abounds for consumers across nearly every industry – you can get your coffee exactly how you like it with your name on the cup, you can interact with digital signage in your favorite boutique to customize your shopping experience, and you can bank online any time while you watch your favorite late-night hosts on your second or third screen. Convenience and customization are all rolled-up into one personalized experience, tailor-made just for you. All of that customization makes consumers more demanding in all areas of their lives, so why should healthcare be any different? 75% of providers say patient experience is critical to the future success of their organizations. Meanwhile, on the list of hospital CEOs’ top concerns, patient satisfaction does not make the top five.  Source: American College of Healthcare Executives 2014 Survey: Top Issues Confronting Hospitals in 2014. Winning brand loyalty requires companies to deliver the best experience to consumers in the way they wish to receive it, and at the time they are open to digest it.  And given the nature of Healthcare’s services, the how and when matter greatly to consumers.

The Healthcare Ecosystem

With the consumer squarely in the driver’s seat in almost every industry today, why is healthcare so late to the party? Like most things in life, it’s complicated. Part of the issue facing healthcare delivery today is structural; buyouts and consolidation are common, and competition for consumer dollars has increased because of the Affordable Care Act.  According to a recent article in Hospitals and Health Networks, Greg Meyers, Senior Vice President of Revenue Integrity for Integris Health, the largest health system in Oklahoma, says “Every day of the week, people walk in here with $5,000, $7,500, $10,000 deductibles. We don’t even refer to our patients as patients now; we refer to them as customers because when that much money comes out of their pocket, they are becoming much more sophisticated as consumers.”

Until quite recently, consumer’s primary interaction with the healthcare system was as a patient, with their healthcare plan often provided to them by an employer and little choice as to healthcare programs or providers. Even as recently as a decade ago, shopping around for the best doctor and patient experience was fairly uncommon; healthcare patients just dealt with any inconvenience, red-tape and expense as part and parcel of the healthcare process. Challenging it meant yet another doctor and even more time, energy and bureaucracy. For their part, healthcare organizations had no real competition for consumer loyalty; they had a built-in client base from referrals and health insurance company relationships and were even overburdened with a mushrooming patient population. With little to no competition and patients themselves not particularly driving many of the competitive decisions surrounding their care, healthcare providers had no compelling reason to change how they deliver care and interact with patients.

In today’s healthcare environment, consumers are both savvy patients and demanding customers. Not only can they use Web MD or the Mayo Clinic to self-diagnose and educate themselves about a possible condition and treatments, they can easily identify doctor’s offices near them with their mobile and crowdsource information about providers with their friends and family on social media. What’s more, consumers likely view healthcare as a highly personal experience.

“They want good care in a compassionate environment without a lot of bureaucratic red-tape standing between them and their doctors and nurses.”

Anyone who has ever navigated the healthcare system with an unsure diagnosis when you’re feeling ill knows all-to-well how daunting and frustrating accessing good healthcare can be. Rather than just accepting the state of sometimes inaccessible, impersonal and inadequate care, today’s uber-empowered patients are demanding more. In short, consumers are now calling the shots, and healthcare is playing catchup.

What Healthcare Can Learn from Financial

Similar to the financial industry, healthcare faces some of the same types of challenges when it comes to adapting to today’s consumer-centric environment. Both financial and healthcare must be responsible stewards of their customers’ private data and information. In banking, there are FDIC laws and regulations to ensure safety and soundness for consumer protection. For healthcare, strict HIPPA regulations have to be top-of-mind when developing seamless integration between digital, person-to-person and physical setting interactions. Conversely, sectors like retail and high-tech don’t have the same level of detail,  scrutiny and oversight regarding their customers’ personally identifiable information, which allows these industries to more quickly respond to consumer demand and drive to innovate customer solutions. Further, like the banking and financial sector before it, healthcare is only recently experiencing the impetus to become more consumer-focused because of consumer-driven demand and the shifting healthcare marketplace.

The financial industry is a perfect role model for healthcare to study and emulate in terms of adaptation to change. The shift in perspective from banker-centric to consumer-centric was a key evolution in the banking industry.

“Legacy institutions like Banking and Healthcare both have to facilitate a culture shift from within in order to effectively compete in a modern marketplace.”

For example, to the consumer, there is very little that’s more personal than personal finance. While money, finance and banking are integrated systems to bankers; to consumers these systems are only meaningful as they relate directly to their lives and goals. Finance to consumers is mortgage or rent payments, investments, tax payments, groceries, and spending money; it’s what money means to their lives. What’s more personal than that? Similarly, consumers view healthcare in much the same way. Access to care is important for their longevity, so they can be healthy to live their lives and take care of their families. Again, what’s more personal than that? The infographic below chronicles how the healthcare industry can learn from the evolution of the financial industry:

fin vs health

In part two of our series on Healthcare in the Age of Experience, we’ll address examples of companies embracing change and creating new models for a sustainable and scalable healthcare industry that holistically addresses the needs of the new healthcare consumer. Let us know your thoughts. Use #healthcareshift to discuss the modern demands on the healthcare industry.

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