In recent years, consumerism has been a rising trend in the healthcare industry. With a wealth of knowledge at their fingertips and a need to dip into their own pockets, patients are using a shopper’s mentality when it comes to their care. Factors such as convenience and costs are a big part of patients’ decision-making.
According to a 2018 PWC study, 66 percent of consumers say they would take advantage of a subscription service for routine medical treatments if they received a discount. Furthermore, the report found that patients would seek routine care in a nontraditional setting if it meant the cost would be less. Just as retailers cater to the needs of shoppers, healthcare organizations must shift their focus to the needs of patients in order to thrive. What does that mean for the outpatient setting? Here we look at patient concerns in healthcare and how that’s shifting the landscape.
In several studies, patients indicated cost as the top factor when choosing where to get healthcare. Healthcare premiums have grown exponentially, and patient financial responsibility and out-of-pocket healthcare costs are increasing. Today, healthcare decisions can heavily impact a patient’s wallet, which means savvy consumers will be more selective in their care. The consumerism mentality is especially driven by this aspect as patients will increasingly hold their healthcare experiences to the same standards as other spending ventures in their lives. To this end, outpatient care settings are starting to adopt retail tactics with incentives such as loyalty programs and discounts to keep patients engaged and “loyal customers.” Patient loyalty leads to less network leakage and rendering services stay in network, which means that providers can retain revenue.
Much like a consumer running to the corner store for a quick errand, patients want to be able to access their healthcare when they want it and when they need it. When a patient isn’t able to access their doctor, it’s impossible to receive medical care, which also doesn’t allow for building a relationship with the provider. Patients need convenient office hours and locations that allow them to make a medical appointment outside of the normal work day or school day. We see more outpatient offices extending their operating hours, but more can be done to improve schedule issues. Implementation of telehealth can help serve a patient outside of the office, and retailers with longer operating hours such as Walmart and CVS Health are trending in the direction of directly providing healthcare.
On the trend of convenience is the timeliness aspect. Patients with a consumer’s mindset will take into consideration factors such as availability of appointments and time spent in waiting rooms. Reducing wait times can lead to a higher patient satisfaction, improved health outcomes, and patient engagement. The other component of timeliness in a patient’s mind is a shortened recovery time. Ambulatory surgery centers (ASC) that offer the patients the convenience of having procedures performed outside the hospital setting. For patients receiving care at an ASC, recovery is typically faster and the infection rate is significantly lower than that of hospitals. As technology continues to develop and improve, more outpatient care settings will be able to offer the convenience of in-office procedures combined with home recovery.
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