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The Health Care Industry Can Solve Consumer Issues Before They Arise

healthcare trendThe recent trend toward health care consumerism has seen a growth in the number of patients who are actively taking ownership of their health and health care decisions. In today’s interconnected world, patients are rapidly evolving into savvy consumers, making informed choices when selecting healthcare services.

Technology has taught consumers to expect timeliness in all aspects of their lives — including health care. The Internet provides them with a wide and instant selection of information and tools for comparison of both hospitals and individual providers.

In fact, the principle has become a bona fide health care movement with corporate and government organizations advising consumers and supporting collaboration within the health care industry on issues relevant to effective healthcare consumerism.

Consumerism in Action

With costs on the rise and a decrease in the number of employers footing the bill for healthcare, causing more consumers to seek health coverage directly, the pressure is on to improve speed of service, quality of care, and communication.

Athena Clinical’s iPhone app is one example of an innovative mobile utility for medical providers and consumers. It offers the opportunity to enhance patient provider communication. Functionality includes health information and lab result review as well as prescription access.

Organizations that maintain an active social media presence, building relationships with patients (or members or shoppers), would be another example.

Crossing the Chasm of Patient Care Quality

Achieving best care is better realized through proactive health care reform. Baylor University investigators Mayberry, Qin, Ballard and Nicewander made note of the obvious gap between US health care services’ potential and the actual quality of care received. Overall healthcare organizations have repeatedly failed to adopt known effective measures into the health care process.

But as not all health care consumers are motivated to action by the same factors, a “one-size-fits-all” approach to reform of any kind — be it an improved communication strategy or the development of a mobile-medical service — will have only limited success.

With the troubles that have plagued the Affordable Care Act, we’ve already seen how reform at a national level has seen only a mixed response, at best, from consumers. To see true reform, individuals must be actively engaged in the process.

Only through targeted efforts, which put more control into the hands of individual consumers, can the health care industry improve quality of care.

Outstanding Communication is Required for Success

According to the German operations and customer service software developer SAP, engaging patients proactively requires that real time information be readily available.

Companies failing to comply will be tagged by consumers as less rewarding and won’t keep up with others in the industry. Nuance Communications research revealed that 65 percent of healthcare consumers appreciate medical provider messages for things such as reminders from their doctors or health providers for procedures including annual flu shots, vaccinations and medical screenings, while only 48 percent of patients say providers make reminder calls.

Important to consider, though, is “message fatigue” — when patients receive too much information from various sources, they become overwhelmed and shut down to important communications.  A balance of important information at an optimal frequency is key.  This isn’t necessarily easy, but c2b solutions is investigating this issue in its next national study later this summer.

Responsiveness is Good Business

Timely medical communication drives better health. Research shows that improving digital channels for health care, specifically, will be beneficial for patients and providers alike and significantly decrease healthcare issues.

For example, with relatively few patients receiving appointment reminders, it seems easy to improve this kind of digital delivery with little implementation cost and a great deal of positive impact. And then there are those people who fail to schedule appointments altogether. It’s likely that both consumers and providers will benefit from a concerted effort in this direction.

Patient-consumers expect the same quality services from medical providers as they get from other businesses. Automated outreach services can fill in many gaps at a lower cost than other service enhancements. Health care consumerism should be an effective motivator for crossing the “quality chasm,” as described by Baylor University investigators Mayberry, Qin, Ballard and Nicewander.

When medical service providers become proactive in managing and delivering patient health needs, they’ll improve well-care and decrease escalation in illness severity caused by neglect. Health care providers can build and sustain a digital presence that will attract, support and retain consumers.

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