The following is a guest post from Becca Lococo, a partner at Optum Advisory Services.
Healthcare executives have seen a striking evolution in discussions on consumerism in just the past few years. You couldn't miss the change at a recent industry event, where a panel served as an interactive session for 150 Midwestern healthcare executives. As a panelist, I heard the shift in conversation that has gone from "we know we need to do consumerism" to "we need to advance to meet consumers' needs and grow in the right way."
From this conversation, here are four key takeaways for providers to consider — not only to create loyalty and drive growth but also to drive consumer engagement in their care and improve outcomes.
1. Dig into data to know your consumers
Much of the conversation with these executives centered on the notion of "knowing your consumers." But truly knowing what consumers want and value is difficult to pinpoint accurately. Healthcare is local, and what consumers want and need is very different based on different markets. Consumer priorities in a given market are driven by a combination of the demographic mix and the healthcare landscape, but the non-healthcare landscape influences how consumers shop and interact with other services.
To that end, it is important to test hypotheses about consumers and dig into the data. The group discussed the need for health systems to develop these early hypotheses to determine if what they think their consumers want is driven by anecdotes — and the loudest voices in the room — or data. In my experience, there are several data-driven methods health care executives can use to develop this deep understanding of consumers — surveys, focus groups, customer journey maps — and uncover new consumer insights.
2. Partnerships are important to execute a consumer-centric strategy
Another key theme that the health care executives kept echoing was the recognition that they don't have to be all things to all people or provide every service or offering themselves. More and more, we’re seeing provider organizations start to form out-of-the-box, and often out-of-industry, partnerships.
One organization Optum Advisory Services works with has partnered with Lyft, the ridesharing app, to help its patients get to their appointments on time. By surveying its consumers and digging deeper into the data, this organization uncovered the main reason patients were not showing up for their appointments was difficulty in finding a parking spot, not the assumed lack of transportation. By partnering with Lyft, this organization is helping to solve a "people" issue, meeting not just a healthcare need but a health need.
Furthermore, at this meeting, I heard examples of provider organizations partnering with architecture and design firms to plan and design more consumer-oriented health care buildings, care sites and spaces within their hospitals.
3. Truly integrated technologies and interoperability will drive quality (in time)
Using new, consumer-facing technologies, such as remote patient monitoring, can drive quality and improve insights. However, the consensus in the room was many of these patient-facing technologies still have a ways to go in terms of interoperability and integration with a hospital or health system's legacy systems. Many view the latest digital technologies as bolt-on technologies, recognizing they are still emerging. The power of what they will offer will likely be recognized in a few more years when the technology can be more seamlessly integrated with current systems and workflows.
I echo the executives' recommendation to learn about these emerging technologies, keep an eye on them, and try to better understand which companies are doing what right now when it comes to digital patient-facing tech.
4. A healthy amount of discomfort around competition is a good thing
One executive made the comment, "the health care industry is a taxi on the verge of an Uber world," signaling a perception that provider organizations are not meeting their consumers' needs. Coupled with this perception, there has been a significant amount of emerging competition (Amazon, CVS-Aetna, etc.) who think they can either do healthcare better or want to do healthcare better than our current system allows. While there was a healthy amount of discomfort around this topic of competition and disruption in the room, most executives felt that the increased competition does not mean hospitals will go away.
The industry is on the verge of disruption, and provider organizations can use this opportunity to develop not just a consumer-centric strategy to drive growth, but a strategy that truly adds value to the end customer and changes the healthcare landscape moving forward.