Consider the healthcare consumer in patient-provider relations

By Michelle Morris on October 15th, 2015

For more than a decade, consumerism has been coined as a buzzword in healthcare.

The way the industry is moving and engagement is increasing, it seems consumerism is less industry jargon and more industry fact.

Late last year, we dove into the topic of healthcare consumerism and how similar to home insurance, furniture and car parts, people are able to shop around to see which health plans, hospitals, care providers and pharmacies best meet their care needs through comparative research. The days of a patient visiting the closest or easiest provider location is a thing of the past. This choice, paired with the change from a volume- to a value-based payment model, is truly redefining the patient-provider relationship.

Consumerism is here to stay, but to remain successful in healthcare, healthcare and IT organizations need to remember “consumer” and “provider” aren’t just flat industry terms – these are real people trying to improve the way care is given and received at an individual level to impact the health of a community. Like any successful relationship, the connection between a consumer and provider needs to stay healthy to achieve the outcomes both parties desire. With the change in payment model and the increased power of the consumer, both parties need to consider how this relationship will thrive.

Collaborate. While price often plays into healthcare shopping, individual relationships with providers motivate patients and their families to engage and stay dedicated to their care team and care plan. With a collaborative care approach, providers can outline the best care plan for their individual patients, understanding what the patient needs short and long term, the best way for the care team to interact with the patient, what tools should be used to ensure the patient sticks to their care plan and the best way to engage a family member. A successful example of this dedication to care collaboration and long-term relationships is found at Southcentral Foundation in Anchorage, Alaska, where providers spend two to three times more time with their patient in a primary care setting than typical facilities, which has reduced ER visits in the community by 65% over the past 10 years.

Invest. Hospitals and healthcare systems, provider groups and payers are investing $40 billion annually to better care for patients, implementing technology to connect with care teams, family members, labs and pharmacies to ensure the patient is better connected and the care teams are more informed. But this is a two-way street – if a patient has access to technology, they need to meet the provider halfway and invest in themselves and the technology available: log into their patient portal, connect their smart phone and set up health alerts and log updates. The more invested, therefore interactive, both the provider and the consumer are, the more personalized care management can be for each individual, resulting in improved community outcomes.

Remain transparent. For a successful patient-provider relationship and for healthcare organizations to maintain dedication from consumers, both patients and providers need to share actual, truthful information to the other. For the patient, this will supply the care team with the best information possible to develop the most relevant care plan. Transparency will also give the patient accurate information and reasoning to implement the care team. In addition to data transparency, since more healthcare consumers are paying out of pocket, price transparency will improve patient-provider relationships and consumer devotion. In a 2016 PWC report, 28 percent of consumers said they did not see a doctor in a recent 12-month period because of costs – would this have been different if their providers, care team or care plans were more transparent about cost?

Healthcare and IT providers need to consider the human side of the consumer, remembering the consumer is the patient, and patient-provider relationships need to be established and maintained. With a collaborative care approach, investment in the right technology and transparency from both the provider and patient, healthcare consumers will be engaged on the right platforms, enabling them to make the best care provider choices for individual healthcare outcomes to be improved.

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