There are three foundational aspects of providing great patient care: doctors must be available when patients need them, doctors must listen when the patient has something important to say, and doctors must help them achieve their goals so they can be the healthiest version of themselves. These are also some of the foundational aspects of healthcare consumerism.
Healthcare consumerism empowers patients to engage with providers and make decisions about their own health by placing the patient at the center. Every part of healthcare, including technology and health policy, should be designed to benefit the patient. This new focus can be difficult for independent practices to navigate alone. What are some of the current and future trends in healthcare consumerism that independent physicians should prepare for?
Current Trends in Healthcare Consumerism
Telehealth and Remote Patient Monitoring
Telehealth is one of the best examples of patient-centric technology. It provides patients more flexibility by permitting them to meet with their doctor virtually. The integration of telehealth technology into electronic health records (EHRs) offers patients greater autonomy, broader access to their data, billing, health records, care information, and easier communication with their physician. Patients using virtual visits jumped from 19 percent in early 2020 to 28 percent in April 2020, and 80 percent are likely to continue using the service in the future.
Willingness to Share Data
Another emerging trend in healthcare consumerism is patients’ growing willingness to share their healthcare data during a crisis. Access to data can help patients make better, more informed decisions about their health. Not only does this help patients, but it allows healthcare professionals to ensure they are providing quality and timely care. Data sharing challenges emerged as a major roadblock to gathering information during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially with respect to where the next breakouts were likely to occur, which patients were likely to suffer severe complications, and how to best contain the disease.
Independent physicians saw these trends occuring their own practices. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) quarantine and social distancing guidelines led to the rapid adoption of telehealth for appointments that did not require an in-person visit. In addition to telehealth, physicians can expect more innovation surrounding other trends in healthcare consumerism.
Future of Healthcare Consumerism
Billing, payment, and appointment scheduling are major pain points for patients and sending reminders can help. As patients assume more control over their own health, digital reminders including important information such as appointment times and billing updates can streamline the process. Patients can opt into receiving these updates by phone, text message, or email. Automated reminders have been proven to reduce the no-show rate, improve patient compliance, and free up time for physicians and staff.
As healthcare tech becomes more sophisticated, reporting and analytics tools will become even more important to patient engagement and retention. Three of the most important metrics related to healthcare consumerism are the level of patient engagement, patient retention, and patient activation. Patient engagement can be measured by counting logins to the patient portal. Patient retention can be measured by monitoring changes in patient volume over time. Patient activation is calculated through PAM, the patient activation measure. Physicians considering adopting technology should understand how these metrics can help them meet patient demand so they can scale their practice accordingly.
Diversity and Inclusion
Moving forward, health tech development must consider inclusive technology. The most effective health tech solutions will also succeed with the deployment of a comprehensive diversity and inclusion strategy. Future technology should include features to improve accessibility in rural communities, translation capabilities, and virtual health capabilities.
The future of healthcare consumerism will demand price transparency. According to a study, 33 percent of Gen Z and 29 percent of Millennial patients reported that COVID-19 impacted their health insurance compared to just 18 percent of Gen Xers and 12 percent of Baby Boomers. Because of this, 90 percent of Gen Z and 87 percent of Millennial patients reported researching healthcare costs prior to visiting their physician for services. As patients shoulder more healthcare costs, they will likely expect their physicians to disclose cost estimates. In fact, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) new 2021 final rule requires hospitals to disclose their prices and make this information easily accessible online.
Ultimately, even the best health tech cannot replace human empathy in the physician-patient relationship. Among all other factors, 44 percent of patients rated an empathetic physician highest on the list of priorities for healthcare.
Taking sufficient time during visits to actually talk to patients, discussing health-related goals, and educating them on all appropriate treatment options can help build the type of relationships that inspire patients to become actively engaged in their health far more than any program can.