Consumerism gaining steam in healthcare, but progress is slow, survey finds
- Hospitals and health systems are investing more in consumer-focused initiatives, but progress is slow and favors traditional over innovative approaches, according to new Kaufman Hall survey of 200 hospital and healthcare executives.
- In all, 90% of respondents said improving customer experience is a high priority, up from 30% in 2017. Significantly more hospitals see digital tools as key to engaging consumers — 64% versus 14% a year ago.
- However, only 8% of respondents are rated tier 1 performers for aggressively pursuing consumer-centric strategies, and just 23% are tier 2 for piloting consumerism initiatives and aligning needs with the organization’s overall strategy. The rest are tiers 3 and 4, meaning they have yet to begin or are in the earliest stages of pursuing a consumerist agenda.
Consumers are looking for quality, convenience and a good deal in virtually every aspect of their lives, from dining to banking to travel, and healthcare is no exception. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, hospitals see consumer-focused amenities such as concierge programs and same-day scheduling as a way to build patient loyalty and boost online ratings while increasing their bottom line.
The survey suggests that hospitals and health systems have a long way to go, though, in achieving that goal — and that more need to look outside the box for ways to engage consumers. As one respondent said, “The traditional healthcare industry is so far behind in terms of meeting, much less anticipating, consumers’ expectations, that I fear for our ability to adapt quickly enough to remain relevant.”
In the area of increasing consumer access, for example, traditional approaches outpaced innovative measures like telemedicine. More than half of respondents reported urgent care centers are widely available at their organizations, and 40% said freestanding imaging sites are widely available. Yet only 27% reported widespread availability of retail clinics, and just 14% and 17%, respectively, were widely offering video visits and e-visits.
Progress is mixed in other areas as well. While many organizations report having fully implemented easy-to-find phone numbers (64%) and customer service training for staff (50%), only 28% have customer-friendly billing statements and just 18% offer real-time patient feedback.
One of the areas where healthcare organizations perform the worst is pricing strategy. Just 5% of organizations are considered tier 1 for aggressive pricing strategies and price transparency, according to the survey. More than 60% base prices on benchmarking of negotiated rates in the marketplace, while just half use financial analysis to identify price/volume trade-offs on revenue and margin, and even fewer weigh cost to serve, price risk by service or demand elasticity related to price.
“Healthcare providers have been slow to adapt because they’ve never had to be consumer focused in the past,” Dan Clarin, senior vice president of Kaufman Hall, said in a statement. “This shift requires a new mindset and new way of thinking that go beyond traditional approaches.”