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How Consumer Expectations Drive Change in Health Organizations

Published on 4/13/2017

It's no surprise that consumer behavior patterns have shifted in recent years. A glance at the current U.S. market demographics tells us that millennials make up nearly one-fourth of the population — firmly replacing baby boomers as the nation's largest living generation.

Millennials may be the largest demographic group driving change, but their habits as consumers are not exclusive. We all desire easy, convenient access to services and information. If it can't be done in a few clicks on our phones, we don't want to do it. Other industries, such as hospitality and retail, figured out this behavior pattern long ago and have been meeting consumers with solutions that adapt to their daily lives. Yet, the health care industry lags behind.

Today, health care organizations must determine how best to meet the wide range of consumer expectations relating to health and well-being. Organizations are transitioning toward creating actionable experiences for the populations they serve — including effectively managing high-cost, at-risk populations.

Meeting the consumer where they live, work and play

For many consumers, health care doesn't enter the mind until it must. For example, when we're worried about an ailment and want answers or when we're sick, we want to see a care provider without waiting a week or more for an appointment. When these instances occur, the expectation is that, as consumers, we should have easy, convenient access to the services we need.

We've made some progress toward this expectation. Through patient portals, consumers today can view their results, pay a bill, message their care providers, schedule (and cancel) appointments and participate in telehealth offerings such as video visits. While this progress is real, the concept of what a patient portal is or should be is evolving, and there is much more to be done to make health care truly focused on the consumer.

Making a health care system consumer-centric

What makes a health care system consumer-centric? Initially, it's a focus on the person and their experience navigating the complexities of a health organization. Consumers don't care if an organization uses different electronic health record (EHR) suppliers within various care settings; they want access to their comprehensive record. Additionally, consumers don't want one portal to pay a bill, another to schedule an appointment and another to message their care provider — they want a single, integrated experience.

A health care system that focuses on the person is one that seeks to create simplicity. This is the focus of Memorial Hermann Health System, which has collaborated with Cerner to launch a new, consumer-centric digital experience for the populations it serves. The new experience pulls together the disparate services that existed within the organization, ranging from finding a doctor to viewing insurance deductibles. By creating a single, digital front door, Memorial Hermann's consumers and patients now have a single point of entry for interacting with the organization, breaking down the silos that previously existed.

Moving from transactional to meaningful consumer interactions

Consumer, member and patient engagement should not be limited to a patient portal. Recent shifts in consumer behavior patterns tell us that 75 percent of individuals seek a partnership with their providers to determine the most effective treatment decisions; one in three individuals want their provider to push them to be more engaged in their health care.

Consider a mother who is caring for a daughter with asthma. Today, there is a twofold challenge that exists within this scenario. First, the mother is tasked with being the primary caregiver for her daughter every day, using the resources and knowledge she's acquired to make high-impact, quick decisions when the moment demands it. Second, care providers must asynchronously support the mother during those times of need, whenever they may occur.

While clinical in nature, the experiences of the mother and the care provider should not stray from what each has come to expect with other consumer experiences. Shouldn't the mother be automatically notified if there's a high pollen count on any given day? Shouldn't the care provider be automatically notified of irregular readings from the daughter's peak flow meter?

Through advancements in Cerner's HealtheIntentSM platform, we are making meaningful progress toward solving these gaps in care. Today, we have client organizations running programs that collect data from devices used by people in their home, aggregating the information with context about each person and creating action items based on who they are and what we know about them. This intelligence is beginning to pave the way for how health care organizations interact with consumers, meeting them where they want via the modality they prefer.

Delivering the health care experience consumers want

As consumer demand for easy, convenient access to care grows, providers increasingly must strive to exceed those expectations and deliver a health care experience that improves their quality of life. Telehealth technologies provide avenues for easier access to care, while concepts like a longitudinal plan, a comprehensive care plan with automated, intelligent actions, pave the way for the future of patient-to-provider interactions.

The tools exist to go beyond where we are today. The challenge lies with how patients and care providers can proactively manage the evolution of the modern health care consumer. We know expectations within our industry will require a focus on consumer-centric care. By leveraging the intelligence we hold within our platforms to provide the right experience to the right person, we can rise to meet those expectations.

Our programmable, comprehensive suite of solutions and services leverages a population health management strategy designed to help organizations to manage outcomes to improve health and care. Learn more about our population health management offerings.