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Growth of consumerism in health care

Rethinking patient engagement strategies

​​​The vast proliferation of consumer innovations seen in areas like online purchasing, social media, digital marketing, and personalized services are beginning to make their way into health care. With the explosion of digital tools to manage health and the rise of classic “consumerism” in the health care space, this transformation in consumer behavior is driving many health care and life sciences organizations to rethink their consumer relationships and patient engagement strategies.​

Rethinking customer engagement strategies to address changing expectations and behaviors

As the health care landscape has evolved, so have its users: patients. Disruptors, regulatory changes, and customers’ experiences in other industries all impact the expectations and preferences of today’s health care consumers and customers. Today, not only is the trend toward value being driven by regulatory policy and payment reform, but also by patients and caregivers demanding greater customer service, convenience, and reduced costs.

This trend has been accelerated by the ability of millions of consumers to compare and select their own health insurance plan on state exchanges; the growth of high-deductible insurance plans that put pressure on consumers to find cost-effective care for the dollars that come from their own pockets; the explosion of digital health technologies and apps at consumers’ fingertips; and the entry of retailers to health care by bringing in-store clinics directly to retail locations, bringing a retailer mindset directly to health care delivery.

The intersection between this rising health care consumerism and a growing customer-centric and retail-orientation in the health care and life sciences industry presents challenges and opportunities to effectively harness and mobilize engagement for providers, health plans, life sciences companies, employers, and government.

Given the evolution of technology, upcoming generations of consumers may well be expected to approach health care just as they do other services and to seek to curate their own experience, supported by mobile technologies to access their health information anywhere, anytime.

Organizations that understand customer expectations and act on how consumers would like to use digital health, telemedicine, wearable monitoring and fitness devices, online resources, social media, and other technologies will likely be well-positioned to develop effective consumer engagement strategies.

In turn, patient engagement strategies that help individuals make informed decisions can help organizations improve effectiveness, efficiency, and value in health care service delivery; excel on quality measures that reflect the consumer experience; and outperform their competition by attracting and retaining actively engaged customers. The challenge, however, is developing a set of strategies that will work across the myriad of consumer segments that are present in the market, as one strategy will not fit all.

Though ultimately, all of us can benefit in the long run: Effectively harnessing these transformations in consumer expectations, behaviors and technologies can ultimately promote higher patient engagement and involvement across health care decisions—a key piece to achieving the “triple aim” goals of improving outcomes, costs, and the experience of care.

Understanding how health consumers’ behaviors and expectations are transforming—and acting on that transformation to win the hearts and minds of consumers and support them as they navigate the health system—is increasingly a business imperative across the health careindustry.

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Will patients and caregivers embrace technology-enabled health care?

A life sciences and health care perspective: Tech Trends 2018

From “doing digital” to “being digital,” that’s where the life sciences and health care industry needs to go. To help your business navigate digital disruption, this series provides a life sciences and health care perspective on Deloitte's 2018 Tech Trends report. From blockchain to digital reality to the no-collar workforce, explore eight trends that are shaping strategic and operational transformations and redefining life sciences and health care.

Implications for health care providers

With the increase in consumer cost sharing through increased prevalence of high-deductible plans and high levels of coinsurance, consumers are becoming far less insulated from the true cost of care. As they increasingly pay for care with their own money, providers may find that their patients may be increasingly unwilling to pay for what they view as exorbitant costs.

Health care organizations may need to re-orient themselves around greater transparency—of costs, quality, processes, and services. Organizations need to more effectively communicate the value of products and services in a manner that supports consumers to compare cost and quality information and enables them to make confident decisions about health care in a way that more closely mimics retail-based purchasing and customer service models.

Adopting a more consumerism-driven retail mindset and approach—with a focus on greater convenience, service, and support—is likely to be important for many health care organizations.

Given the new emphasis on patient experience as a core element of care quality and value, health systems should consider investing in the tools and technologies to better engage patients and enhance patient experience. These tools not only can help drive the bottom line (research shows that good patient experience is associated with higher hospital profitability) but also can accelerate value-based care business imperatives.

Read more about Deloitte's consumerism in health care insights for health systems:

Implications for health plans

​When it comes to winning and building profitable customer relationships, the game is changing for health plans. Group sales are giving way to individual policies cultivated in a retail environment—through new and existing commercial channels, through expanded Medicaid, and through the new Health Insurance Exchanges or Marketplaces.

Consumers are increasingly demanding more health plan options and better service. They want to analyze different options and choose the health care coverage that best meets their needs and cost expectations. This has become especially important as previously uninsured individuals purchase insurance and a large contingent of currently insured individuals shift from employer-based coverage to government-based coverage and individual coverage.

The new health insurance market makes competing a two-stage proposition—win consumers on your health plan’s value proposition, but keep them based on the right consumer experience. As plans depend more on individual customer loyalty, they have to excel at service and engaging consumers, as well as find new ways to create value for their existing health provider and employer stakeholders.

Health plans will likely find that they should redefine their value propositions—and create new sources of value and new partnerships—to help steer members to high-value, cost efficient care outlets with new products, networks, plan designs, and digital health offerings.

Implications for life sciences

​Manufacturers of health care products and technologies must now understand and articulate not only the clinical role of a product, but also its role within the patient-journey and its value to both the patient experience and to the health system. In today’s shifting health care landscape, patients are demanding care and solutions that are coordinated, convenient, customized, and accessible.

In response, life sciences companies are coming forward to address these emerging expectations and establish their brands for patient engagement by investing in “beyond the pill,” wrap-around technologies and solutions such as digital and mobile health apps to support treatment and adherence and enhance patient experience and outcomes.

Life sciences manufacturers are establishing partnerships with health systems, with developers of health applications, and with manufacturers of wearable health technologies to establish new partnered programs to improve adherence, outcomes, and overall patient experience while reducing overall cost of care.

Companies now have the opportunity-and increasingly, the imperative to differentiate themselves with services to help patients get better informed about their particular diagnosis, make treatment and health decisions, secure financial assistance, and connect with other patients and community experts.

Ultimately, launching new business collaborations and investing in innovative patient engagement platforms and programs that demonstrate a link to improved outcomes will likely build brand loyalty and trust for life sciences companies among patients, providers, and payers alike.

Read more about Deloitte's consumerism in health care insights for life sciences:

Look deeper. Explore Deloitte's latest insights on health care consumerism

How we can help

​Deloitte is working with clients across all sectors of the health care industry to adapt to the rise of health care consumerism and shifting customer/patient expectations with strategic and operational decisions made through a customer lens.

With the right strategy, customer understanding, financial modeling, and anticipatory preparation, health care organizations can adjust to the changing climate focused not only on value, but also on patient-experience and retail-oriented capabilities. Collaboration with Deloitte can help health organizations:

  • Maintain and grow share in an increasingly competitive retail environment
  • Deepen engagement and loyalty to unlock patients’ lifetime value
  • Understand the consumer perspectives that inform better inter-industry connections
  • Defend margins by looking beyond cost management
  • Make sounder investment decisions in digital health, analytics, and other technologies

Read more about how we can help for:

All sectors:

Health care providers:

Life sciences:

​Health plans:

Our service offerings include:

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