Over 80 percent of hospital leaders agree consumerism in healthcare is imperative, but more hospitals are lagging behind on that front.
Despite pressure from new medical industry entrants, hospitals and health systems aren’t responding to trends in healthcare consumerism and patient experience, according to the 2019 State of Consumerism report from Kaufman Hall.
A survey of hospital and health system leaders across the country revealed that most industry experts are aware of a growing need for consumer-centricity. Eighty-eight percent of respondents agreed that their businesses may be vulnerable to new healthcare market players that have a proven track record of driving consumer experiences.
Sixty-seven percent of respondents said they believed the UnitedHealth and Optum healthcare giant holds a strong or extreme threat to traditional healthcare providers. Sixty-six percent said the same of CVS Health and Aetna, 56 percent about Amazon, 39 percent about Google and Alphabet, and 38 percent about Apple.
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But despite general consensus that the healthcare industry is forever changed by the rise of consumerism and these new market entrants, few organizations are rising to the occasion. Through a survey analysis, Kaufman Hall researchers categorized organizations into four tiers of consumerism success.
Tier one, which held 8 percent of organizations, includes those with a heavy focus on building consumer-centric infrastructure, offering modern healthcare access points, prioritizing consumer experience, and driving price transparency. These organizations are poised to keep up with the Amazons and CVS Healths of the industry, but they are few and far between.
Twenty-four percent of hospitals and health systems were deemed tier two, meaning they have a “thoughtful approach to becoming more consumer-centric,” and are beginning to invest in the tools necessary to achieve those goals.
Tier three, to which 39 percent of organizations belonged, have identified which initiatives will help them to become more consumer-centric, but have not fully developed those plans. These organizations have not built out their programs and do not yet have the infrastructure to support them.
Finally, 29 percent of organizations were categorized as tier four. These organizations are not working on promoting consumer-centricity whatsoever.
Although the number of organizations rated as tier one or tier two holds strong, the researchers observed poor results among tier three and tier four organizations compared to previous years.
There are fewer hospitals and health systems falling into tier three, but only because they have slipped to tier four, the researchers reported. In 2018, 52 percent of organizations were ranked as tier 3 compared to this year’s 39 percent.
The rest of those organizations slipped to tier four, which saw only 17 percent of organizations last year compared to this year’s 29 percent.
This backslide is likely because organizations continue to lean on what Kaufman Hall suggests are outmoded patient care access strategies. Sixty-one percent of respondents have widespread urgent care clinics, while 51 percent host ambulatory clinics and 41 percent have freestanding diagnostic facilities.
“Many hospitals and health systems remain focused on a brick-and-mortar model of offering consumers access to their providers,” Dan Clarin, senior vice president of strategic and financial planning at Kaufman Hall, said in a statement.
Nearly half of organizations said they don’t offer access to any retail clinics, despite the fact that retail clinics offer a convenient access point for patients, the researchers said.
Additionally, organizations lag behind in appointment scheduling tools. Fewer than one-third of respondents said they offer online appointment scheduling. Of those who do offer online appointment scheduling, just 16 percent said this function is available to new patients.
“Consumers are accustomed to the convenience of being able to access the goods and services they need on their smartphones, tablets, and computers,” Clarin added. “Healthcare organizations that want to connect with new or potential consumers should adapt their delivery models to remain relevant in an increasingly digital environment.”
Additionally, only 11 percent of organizations are investing in patient experience technology, despite the 81 percent of organization executives who said patient and consumer experience are a top priority.
Thirty-four percent of organizations said they have real-time feedback and patient satisfaction technologies, while half said they don’t offer live wait time update tools. Thirty-eight percent of respondents said real-time update tools are offered only on a limited basis.
“As consumers continue to gain greater digital access to information and services in other areas of their lives, they expect the same of their healthcare experience,” said Clarin. “Providers must introduce digital best practices as part of their overall customer experience strategies, and begin to think in terms of ‘delighting’ rather than merely ‘satisfying’ consumers going forward. Doing so will require substantial investments in infrastructure and training.”
The researchers also observed pitfalls as they relate to price transparency and consumer-centricity infrastructure. Fewer than one-third of respondents said they have a mechanism for price transparency. Only about half of organizations respond to price requests, while 12 percent said they have no price transparency protocol whatsoever.
Additionally, organizations lack the infrastructure and data to promote a consumer-centered experience. Sixty-four percent said they have no consumer experience scorecards, meaning they cannot keep track of their performances.
Sixty-four percent also said they have no executive incentive programs for promoting consumer experience, while 69 percent have no provider incentives for this. About one-quarter have no in-office personnel who are experts in patient and consumer experience data.
New industry players are continuing to gain a foothold as more traditional healthcare entities remain in their outdated ways, the researchers stated. In order to remain competitive in an increasingly crowded field, hospitals and health systems must reframe their strategies to put the patient at the center of care and invest in the tools that will help them achieve consumer-centricity.
“New entrants to healthcare seek to disintermediate hospitals and health systems from their loyal consumers by offering high levels of access, experience, and affordability for an expanding number of outpatient services,” the researchers concluded. “These new entrants have superior data and analytics, along with expertise to develop digital care and engagement. Hospitals and health systems must adapt to get a firm handhold on the rising bar of consumer expectations.”
Date: June 21, 2019