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Patient, Provider Views Diverge on Consumer Centric Care Priority

Over 70 percent of payers and providers prioritize consumer centric care, but only one-fifth of patients have seen any improvements in their care, survey shows.

consumer centric care

Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- Consumer centric care and patient engagement are top priorities for over 70 percent of payers and healthcare providers, and yet those efforts are not apparent to patients, according to a survey conducted by OCR International on behalf of Change Healthcare.

The survey, obtained by PatientEngagementHIT.com via email, showed the progress of patient engagement from the payer, provider, and consumer perspective, highlighting a chasm between patients and their healthcare organizations.

Consumer engagement is a top priority for 80 percent of payers and 72 percent of providers, the survey found. Healthcare organizations and payers are funneling between one-quarter and one-third of their healthcare IT investments toward consumer centricity, respectively.

The insurgence of value-based healthcare models has pushed organizations to adopt more consumer-centric strategies. Sixty-seven percent of clinician groups said value-based care is the number one driver for patient centricity, and 74 percent of payers said the same.

Rising consumer demand for a retail experience and the increase in high-deductible health plans and out-of-pocket patient costs are also large contributors to patient-centric care.

“As the industry continues a transition to value-based reimbursement, consumers are more financially responsible for and engaged in improving their health,” the survey authors wrote in the report’s executive summary. “As part of this, consumers want and need more retail-like experiences from their providers and health plans, using new and better engagement services, technologies, and channels.”

Payers are generally more concerned with consumer-centricity, the survey revealed. More payers reported that patient engagement is a high priority. Payer groups also cited lasting consumer relationships and financial planning support in high-deductible health plans as major priorities.

Although clinical groups also cited those factors as important, they did so at a lesser rate than their payer counterparts.

Both payers and providers are investing in their most patient-facing departments when making consumer-centric improvements. Payers are investing in customer service, consumer and patient education, and marketing in the push for consumer centricity.

Providers are investing in outpatient services, inpatient services, and patient education.

Both payers and providers are investing heavily in software solutions for patient engagement. Payers are also investing in their own websites, call centers, and mHealth tools.

Despite these investments, efforts to improve consumer centricity are not coming across for patients, the survey found. Seventy-two percent of the nearly 800 patients surveyed said their healthcare experiences have either not changed or declined in quality during the past 24 months. Twenty percent of patients said their care improved in that timeframe.

Patients cited few areas in which their care experiences improved during the past 24 months. Twenty-two percent said it became easier to obtain an appointment. Eighteen percent said the same about finding information on a provider website, 14 percent said it is easier to understand medical bills, and nine percent said it’s easier to compare costs.

Payers and providers may be on the right track investing in digital health. The survey revealed that patients largely depend on health technologies such as care alerts, self-scheduling, and cost estimator tools. Patients also utilize clinician websites to obtain general information.

However, the survey authors said there are still significant gaps in provider services and patient needs that must be met. Patients are currently facing a “millennial gap,” the survey authors said. This means older patients are not getting what they need to benefit from consumer centric healthcare.

“Payers, providers, and consumers sometimes have different agendas when it comes to engagement priorities and efficacy, and these insights are critical to informing investment strategies,” said Carolyn J. Wukitch, Change Healthcare’s Senior Vice President & General Manager of Network and Financial Management.

Healthcare payers and providers can close this break in understanding with patients by tailoring their efforts to meet patient needs and preferences. Industry professionals should survey specific patient populations to determine needs and develop patient-centric programming around the findings.

“Consumers want new and better tools because they now have a greater financial responsibility. But the research shows technology investment is just a first step,” Wukitch added. “Payers and providers have opportunities to capitalize on their investments, tailor experiences to what consumers want, promote adoption of these innovative services, and solicit feedback—and that goes double for the largest part of the population, older patients. Engagement requires more than tools alone.” 

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