The benefits of value-based care for patients, providers, and the healthcare industry as a whole are exciting and well-established. These promising alternative payment systems can improve patient health outcomes while rewarding providers for delivering best-in-class, evidence-based care. In the field of women’s health, for example, UnitedHealthcare has announced a bundled payment program for maternity care designed to deliver high-quality, efficient, coordinated care.
However, value-based care’s progress in women’s health has lagged behind other areas of primary care. One way to narrow that gap is by optimizing the patient experience for women.
How the Patient Experience Affects Value-Based Care
Value-based care hinges on providers’ ability to deliver high-quality care that is linked to better patient health outcomes. But what exactly is “quality?”
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ (ACOG) report from the Committee on Health Economics and Coding notes that “patient experience measures” are one of the main quality criteria. “Patient experience measures are increasingly seen by payers and reporting agencies as trusted measures of the quality of care that patients receive.” Much of this information is gathered through Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) surveys.
To improve their scores, providers must incorporate “patient preferences into treatment plans through the use of shared decision-making tools,” which can “decrease costs in several settings.” It is essential for providers to engage with the preferences of their female patients and understand how they differ from men’s.
Understanding the Role of Healthcare Consumerism in Women’s Health
While the times are changing, men have historically been viewed as the default patient. This bias has had disastrous consequences for women; for example, women are less likely to survive a heart attack, possibly due to misinformation around how symptoms present in women. This unfortunate fact, which highlights how women often do not receive necessary treatment, is so prevalent it even has a name: the Yentl Syndrome.
A similar bias is at play when it comes to healthcare consumerism. As patients pay higher out-of-pocket expenses and increasingly view healthcare as a product, women’s preferences as patient-consumers are neglected. This is a major misstep as women make the majority of healthcare decisions. According to a report from Frost & Sullivan:
- 90 percent of women are primary healthcare decision-makers for their family and key influencers for friends
- 80 percent of household healthcare spending is by women
- Working-age women spend 29 percent more per capita on healthcare than men
Given that female patients’ preferences are not only different than men’s, but also more influential on the market place, how can women’s health providers adjust their offerings to optimize the patient experience for women?
Tools to Flourish in a Healthcare Consumerist Model
The framework of healthcare consumerism suggests that patients crave convenience, access, and engagement. Furthermore, data suggests that women are 75 percent more likely to use digital tools for healthcare than men.
Therefore, one of the best tools to appeal to female patient-consumers’ interests is telehealth. The ability to connect with a provider virtually — and from virtually anywhere — is crucial to enhancing convenience and access, which can in turn increase engagement by adding more touchpoints for the patients. Women are often extremely busy, so the ability to easily connect with their provider without needing to drive to the office can be a huge plus. Oliver Wyman’s Consumer Survey of US Healthcare even found that more women than men “requested availability of a wider range of online and virtual services that offer care assistance in between physical visits.”
Remote patient monitoring is another emerging trend in women’s health. This development coincides with the rise of “Femtech,” and includes wearables and other technology products designed specifically to support women’s health. This industry is projected to hit $50 billion by 2025. Think of the applications for combining this technology with remote patient monitoring when it comes to women’s health. Obstetrician-gynecologists (OB-GYNs) could, for instance, remotely monitor an expectant mother’s blood pressure, heart rate, weight, and other key metrics of maternal health without having her visit the office.
There are many tools available for women’s health providers to utilize, such as “online scheduling, text message reminders, extended hours, online health information portals, online bill paying [to] promote convenience,” according to a study by Prophet and GE Healthcare Camden Group.
The Need for Information in Women’s Health
The Women’s Choice Award found that the following factors are important criteria when women are evaluating a healthcare experience:
- Effective communication with nurses and doctors
- Responsiveness to requests for help
- Providing patient recovery information
- Explanation about medications before being administered
- Patient recommendation rating
What do these all have in common? A desire to know more, to gain more information.
“Women have shown their desire to be empowered through information,” wrote Juan Pablo Segura, Co-Founder and President of Babyscripts.
This interest in information actually begins before women are patients, before they’ve even chosen a provider. Data from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 36 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 25 do not have a regular clinician and 20 percent of respondents said that they delayed care because they did not have a regular clinician.
Women’s health providers can attract these potential new patients by offering up-to-date, helpful information on their website. One study found that 53 percent of women think the best health information is online, but only 31 percent trust online information. So make sure your location, contact information, and hours are correct. Advertise positive reviews from patients. List which insurances you accept. If you offer services such as telehealth or a patient portal, include that information on your website as well. Make sure all patient-facing materials account for the audience’s health literacy. For example, avoid medical jargon when possible, include visual materials (e.g., infographics, diagrams, videos) to aid understanding, and practice the “teach-back method.”
By understanding women’s preferences as patients — such as offering technology tools and providing helpful information — women’s health providers can enhance the patient experience. In doing so, providers can not only better their relationship with their patients, but also thrive in value-based contracts.