News Feature | November 11, 2016

Healthcare Systems Not Equipped To Meet Consumers' Demands

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

demand forecasting in pharmaceutical industry

Report paints bleak picture of the ability to apply consumer insights to healthcare service design.

Consumers play a central role in today’s healthcare system, and already are approaching their healthcare needs like they do their holiday shopping lists. A PwC report found as consumers shop around for the best healthcare plans and services, providers need to respond like retailers, as Health IT Outcomes reported.

The PwC report stated that, as Americans face higher deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs, “Some consumers are beginning to shop around, diverting business away from health systems and toward standalone operations that advertise their prices and services.”

Now, Kaufman Hall’s State of Consumerism in Healthcare report reveals hospitals and health systems are largely unequipped to understand and meet consumers’ changing expectations, despite the central role consumer’s play in healthcare today. The survey of over 100 U.S. providers paints a bleak picture of organizations’ ability to apply consumer insights to healthcare service design even though there is widespread recognition by healthcare leaders that consumer-centric strategies are key to growth and that engaging consumers is critical to thriving under value-based care models, particularly in the midst of increasing non-traditional competition.

“Emerging leaders recognize that in today’s healthcare environment, consumerism it is not a program or a problem to be solved, but a key to growth,” said Paul Crnkovich, Managing Director, at Kaufman Hall. “Typically, successful organizations start with a high-impact focus area while laying the foundation for broader consumer-centric capabilities.”

Common barriers offered by respondents include resistance to change, lack of urgency, competing priorities, and data challenges. The study also found action will be required in four key areas: organizational alignment, content, capability, and data/IT. Further, Kaufman Hall asserts, systematic planning is the key to success.

According to the findings, while 66 percent of respondents believe consumerism is a priority, only 23 percent have the strategic insights necessary to take action, and only 16 percent have the capability to implement strategies based on those insights.

A key theme that emerged from the survey is consumerism is not a program or a problem to be solved, but a key to growth. One respondent explained success under value-based care requires “engaging the consumer, figuring out what they value.” And as consumers increasingly shop around for lower costs and better experiences, applying consumer understanding will allow healthcare organizations to succeed in the face of competition that “will come from places we can’t even imagine right now,” according to another respondent. Further, 79 percent of respondents said there is a pressing need to understand and enhance patient experience, but only 18 percent have employed advanced means to do so.

But while consumer comparison is on the rise for healthcare services and providers, only 29 percent of respondents consider strategic pricing a high priority, and just nine percent have advanced pricing strategies in place. “Our findings show healthcare executives recognize the many operational areas that require consumer insights, from strategic planning to site selection,” said Ken Harris, Managing Partner, Cadent Consulting Group. “The next step is for organizations to establish clear strategic and business-unit goals that ensure consumer-centric insights are developed and applied across the enterprise.”

 To access the full report, click here.