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Consumer-Centered Healthcare Improves, Focus on Innovation Key

Ninety percent of organizations said they highly prioritize consumer-centered healthcare, but very few have innovative enough strategies for this.

consumer-centered healthcare

Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- Healthcare organizations are making strides toward more consumer-centered healthcare, putting special focus on better patient access to care and positive hospital experiences. However, more progress is necessary to true evolve into a consumer-centric organization, according to a new Kaufman Hall report.

The report, “State of Consumerism in Healthcare: Activity in Search of Strategy,” referenced a Kaufman Hall survey of over 425 respondents from 200 hospitals and health systems across the country. The survey found that more healthcare organizations are dedicating efforts toward meeting consumer expectations in healthcare.

For example, 90 percent of respondents said improving consumer-centricity was their top organizational priority this year. That is an improvement from less than 10 percent in the 2017 iteration of this survey.

Over half of respondents in the 2018 survey said they have quality systems in place to meet consumer expectations, up from only 30 percent of respondents last year.

Organizations are focused on four pillars of the consumer experience, this year’s survey revealed, including access, experience, pricing, and consumer analytics.

READ MORE: Patient Satisfaction and HCAHPS: What It Means for Providers

Seventy-seven percent of organizations said they are working to enhance facility access points. Fifty-four percent of respondents said they have the tools necessary for supporting those goals. Additionally, 64 percent of organizations are looking into digital tools.

A smaller emphasis was placed on virtual care access, outpatient pricing strategy, and price transparency, the report showed.

Although more organizations reported a focus on and strong resources for improving consumer-centered healthcare, their efforts are falling short.

Kaufman Hall split respondents into four tiers of success, ranging from top performers, thoughtful approachers, nascent innovators, and those who have not begun consumer-centered activities.

Only 8 percent of respondents fell under tier one, while 23 percent were tier two, and 70 percent either tier three or four. Although organizations recognize that consumer-centered healthcare is important, very few are following through on those priorities with innovative and effective strategies.

READ MORE: Consumers Say Patient-Provider Relationship Key to Quality Care

Only 12 percent of respondents were ranked in tier one with respect to their patient care access efforts. A combined 70 percent fell under tiers three and four. These findings were largely because of the overly traditional efforts used to improve patient care access, the report suggested.

Most organizations are currently sticking to the care access status quo, primarily utilizing multi-service outpatient centers and ambulatory surgery centers to improve access.

Over half of organizations said they offer access to urgent care centers, but that is about as far as innovative access sites go. Forty percent or organizations said they have freestanding imaging sites, 27 percent have retail clinics, 14 percent offer video visits, and 17 percent offer e-visits.

Few organizations are top performers for patient experience improvement, as well. Only 7 percent of organizations were ranked in the top tier, while a combined 76 percent were rated tiers three and four.

Currently, 64 percent of organizations have implemented easy access phone numbers and 37 percent have deployed wayfinding systems. Half have patient experience training for staff, while 31 percent of organizations have piloted those training sessions.

READ MORE: Retail Consumer Experience Key in Consumer-Driven Healthcare

Very few of these organizational improvement efforts are rooted in deep consumer insights, the report revealed. Only 12 percent of organizations are top-ranked for using consumer insights and analytics, while a combined 71 percent were ranked tier three or four.

This means that organizational efforts aren’t truly based on consumer needs. Organizations are not able to target their organizational efforts toward what their specific patient populations need.

Most organizations use traditional methods to collect patient sentiment. Eighty-five percent of respondents said they use consumer satisfaction surveys, while 53 percent conduct focus groups and group surveys.

However, more niche consumer analytics tools are underutilized. Only 27 percent of respondents use customer retention analysis and only 8 percent use price elasticity modeling. Both of these tools could reveal useful insights about why patients leave an organization or what they can afford.

Very few organizations are taking the time to support patient financial responsibility. Only 39 percent said making outpatient pricing strategy was a priority, and only 35 percent were focused on offering price transparency.

Additionally, only 5 percent of surveyed organizations were rated in the top tier for handling patient costs, while a combined 74 percent were rated either tier three or four.

Although there is still considerable room to grow, most of these results are better than last year’s report. While there was little growth in the number of tier two or one organizations, there was great improvement of organizations improving from tier four to three this year.

This is likely because more organizations are feeling the changing industry forces that are currently shaping healthcare, the report noted. As consumers become accustomed to certain experiences with other businesses, healthcare will need to meet new demands for convenience and positive experiences.

“Within a relatively few years, the internet economy has forever changed how people shop, get information, do business, and interact,” the report said. “With these changes come expectations for access, convenience, and low prices like none we have ever seen before—expectations that legacy companies find extraordinarily difficult to meet. Hospitals and health systems are no exception.”

Improvements are slow going because organization strategies are still steeped in past traditions. As organizations continue to face new demands from their patient consumers, it will be essential for them to be agile and to adopt new, more innovative models for healthcare.

"Healthcare providers have been slow to adapt because they've never had to be consumer focused in the past," Kaufman Hall Senior Vice President Dan Clarin said in a statement.  "This shift requires a new mindset and new way of thinking that go beyond traditional approaches."

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