I recently read a fascinating article in the Wall Street Journal on the changing model of hospitals and the new ways in which they are beginning to deliver care. As the author, Laura Landro, explains “the sprawling institutions we know are radically changing—becoming smaller, more digital, or disappearing completely. The result should be cheaper and better care.”

As more of my work pushes me into the consumer-focused health care space, I find myself deeply intrigued by Landro’s vision of the future. She defines a new health care landscape where providers are shifting their focus away from their monolithic inpatient facilities. Instead, they’re placing their energy and resources in serving their patients out in the community where they live—moving from an internal service model to an external one. To do this, providers must expand their service lines to offer more outpatient treatment and convenient care options at strategic locations across the regions they serve. In addition, they’re increasing their investment in technology and turning to telehealth (delivery of health care remotely via the internet) to serve more patients in real time.

As the leader of the second largest hospital in Florida, I know the critical importance of a high quality, accessible and traditional health care setting.  But I also believe that health care providers and facilitators will quickly need to adapt to a changing environment that is highly influenced by consumer behavior. Our ability to be nimble and operate in this new space will be critical to our success and survival.

As Landro acknowledges, many of the changes in care delivery are being driven by economics, but they’re also significantly informed by desires of the patient, or as I now refer to them, the health care consumer. In today’s world, consumerism drives our business – and price, quality and convenience are more important than ever. Increased access to technology, the availability of medical information online, and the rise in smartphones, apps and wearable fitness and health devices, are other factors driving consumer-focused health care.

While many of us understand this in theory, how do we begin to think about putting it into practice?

Like everything we do, careful planning and strategy design are critical to success. When developing your consumerism health care plan, consider the following key questions:

  • How will you gather and analyze meaningful patient data? Developing insights into patients’ behavior and expectations is vital.
  • Have you begun to segment your customer base based on age, risk factors, lifestyle and activity level?
  • Which service lines are in the greatest demand within your consumer population and community? Does offering or enhancing these services makes sense to your bottom line and to the consumers you serve?
  • Do the spaces for care and treatment center around patients (both their experience and efficiency)?
  • Have you considered the ways in which you can holistically integrate all patient management—appointment, tests, etc.?
  • Do you have a plan to invest in technology? Technology is a key driver in consumerism. More importantly, patient-facing technology is critical in order to drive digital natives to engage with your health care organization.

 

There’s no secret sauce in designing and implementing consumer facing health care but there are two key elements to start with. First, you need to work to have the sufficient services available and second, you need to know your customers. This means spending a significant amount of your time developing a deep understanding of your customer base—who they are, what they want and need and what messages resonates with them. At the end of the day, health care is no different than any other business marketing to a defined customer demographic and/or consumer base.

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In my next post I will offer some tips to help make consumerism a reality in your organization.

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