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Your Hospital’s Explosive Consumerism Makeover

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Seesaw with heart on one side, coins on the other[Series Installment] It looks like the majority of hospitals throughout the US want to be gearing up for major advances in consumerism. From a marketing and business development perspective, the institutions that make aggressive consumer moves will differentiate themselves from the other 92 percent of the industry.

A mere eight percent of hospitals and health systems are “high performers.” This top tier successfully applies best practices to meet new consumer expectations “in access, experience and pricing.” This according to the 2017 State of Consumerism in Healthcare benchmark report by Kaufmann, Hall & Associates.

The report numbers reveal some alarming disparities. “Consumerism is a high priority for most healthcare organizations, but many have been slow to build capabilities to meet core consumerism objectives:

  • “90 percent of organizations identify improving the consumer experience as a high priority, but only 30 percent have built capabilities to do so
  • “73 percent identify developing a diverse set of facility-based access points as a high priority, but just 25 percent have the needed capabilities
  • “58 percent identify offering digital tools and information to enable consumer engagement as high priorities, but just 14 percent have those capabilities”

This industry snapshot—an echo of previous industry studies—quantifies how, and perhaps why, most hospitals are desperately chasing society’s consumerism attitudes and customer demands. Patients are informed consumers who enjoy more respect and attention in the everyday retail world. But these consumers “expect more from their healthcare providers.”

The specific improvement opportunities—to leap ahead of competitive pack—is evident in what others fail to deliver. At best, KH&A reports: “Only 15 percent of organizations are aggressively moving to improve patient access to both diverse sites of care and digital connectivity.” What’s more, “Less than 10 percent of organizations are pursuing pricing strategies and price transparency as high priorities."

Consumerism for healthcare is at least 120 years old…

Today’s patient expects more. They want the higher level of service and convenience that they ordinarily find in virtually all other retail buying. Hospitals, however, are either a holdout, or are tuned into the needs, wants and interests of the patient-now-consumer.

About the time William McKinley was inaugurated as the 25th American president, MD/Doctor of Medicine (Harvard Medical School) and author, Orison Swett Marden declared: “The golden rule for every businessman is this: 'Put yourself in your customer's place.'” [Hint: about 1897] But, even with a century and a quarter early admonition, healthcare has resisted technology, the Internet and other influences of consumerism.

Catering to consumers and buyer experience has long been driving elements of business in service and retail industries. It’s an influence that can attract and retain patients and significantly influence success. In addition, the dominating millennial population segment in the US virtually demands a consumer experience. Better than 20 percent of millennials find the nation’s healthcare system inconvenient, according to an Accenture survey. And nearly 30 percent say “they don’t have a trusted physician or primary care doctor.”

Most telling is that the fact that millennials—the nation’s largest population group—are “likely to switch providers if their expectations weren’t met.” More about this in our previous series installment: Millennial Expectations: Learning to Live with Healthcare’s New Consumerism. For healthcare in particular, “Consumerism includes previously unheard-of buyer expectations.”

The Kaufman Hall report shows that “clinical outcomes are not enough to create brand loyalty in an increasingly competitive healthcare environment.” As a result, some hospitals and health systems “have started to add concierge-type services and amenities to increase patient satisfaction.”

The coming makeover in hospital consumerism…

Business-savvy healthcare providers, hospitals and health systems are getting on the consumer bandwagon…although it’s a bumpy ride for many. Competition in most markets is intense, and embracing consumerism is a means to compete.

In those situations where the competition is struggling with old-school systems, it is a premium opportunity to lead with a strong consumer-centric presence. And it may require an explosive consumerism makeover.

Let us know where you are in this transformation process, and watch for additional articles in this series.

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