Impacts of Healthcare Consumerism: Part 2 The Brave New World of Choice: What You Need to Know

Posted by Krithika Srivats

As we noted in our May 13 post, Part 1 of our series on this topic, healthcare consumerism is stepping up the game for all stakeholders, specifically, buyers who are actively advocating for care and their own health decisions. These consumers are bringing their perspective from other areas of their lives—like retail and financial services. And they expect that same marketplace reality—one that promotes competition and consumer choice.

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Today’s Healthcare Consumer

The movement of today’s healthcare consumers from a “doctor say-patient do” to an informed decision making mode calls for a robust 360 engagement approach to influence the consumer in making the right choices.

Psychographics, or behavior economics, is defined as the business of leveraging insights from psychology based on values, beliefs, and economics to study the choices people make and the impact it has on consumerism. It’s a term that is commonly used when referring to market segmentation for marketing and product development, and it is one of the best ways for the healthcare industry to understand today’s new patients/consumers.

A brief look at the influencers of understanding will help organizations in customizing the interaction/engagement models in order to maximize the uptake and outcome of each interaction. There are two types of cognition, according to fuzzy trace theory, developed by Cornell University Psychologist of Human Ecology, Dr. Valerie Reyna. One is based on data and comprehension of the data, where the decision maker, or consumer, is able to logically arrive at a decision based on analysis of the facts and figures. The other, fuzzy trace mode, ignores the facts and statistics and focuses on the overall meaning and gist of the facts. This more intuitive decision making relies on emotional cues in a categorical manner. For example, as per the fuzzy trace logic, knowing the risk statistics of breast cancer may not necessarily increase the urgency to make an appointment for a mammogram. The commitment to making the appointment comes from the understanding of what the risk level means in terms of conversion to actual breast cancer to the individual and how preventive service will improve the chances of recovery.

More and more, today’s healthcare consumer is educated, working from the informed decision-making vantage point. A key issue, for payers and providers, is enabling consumers to affect not just their own health or their loved ones’ health, but at large the community and the universe they live in. Thus, the healthcare industry is rapidly developing their capabilities to support the movement toward consumer-directed care, which has predominantly been associated with benefit accounts management.

Here are some interesting facts around healthcare consumer behavior:

  • Health-related employee productivity loss accounts for 77 percent of all such loss and costs employers two to three times more than annual health care expenses, according to a 2014 Population Health Management study.
  • A total 70% of chronic illness is due to personal choices and behaviors, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
  • In sum, 81% of retail consumers, according to Accenture, want to improve their health and wellness but prefer personal engagement, help with navigation through the network and costs, and lastly support and guidance with major diagnoses and treatments as the key driving factors. And an overwhelming 72% of consumers consider affordability as the primary reason while choosing health care and of those less than a third are willing to do anything to reduce the cost of care

A recent Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions study on healthcare consumer segmentation revealed four aspects to improving consumer onus on health and outcomes:

  1. Increased access to health and providing consumers with more information may change their behavior in a way that reduces cost of healthcare.
  2. Providing consumers with more information may change their behaviors in a way that reduces health care cost.
  3. Consumer preferences and styles should be considered while creating strategies on consumer engagement.
  4. Consumer segmentation gives the healthcare organizations to specifically target their products and services to the healthcare consumers.

Evolving Consumer-Directed Care

While most other industries, such as consumer goods, retail, and hospitality, have adopted a robust customer life-cycle management, the healthcare industry has been behind in adoption of a proactive engagement model. But now, consumer-directed health (CDH) will focus more on services that will influence and inform the consumer in choices to managing health, healthcare purchasing decisions, and taking onus of cost reduction.

With that responsibility, do those of us in the “people business” take it as an opportunity to affect the informed choices? At HGS, we interact with close to 200,000 customers every day. As customer care experts, we understand the psychology and need behind each interaction and hence can help our customers shift from a transactional approach of interactions into a meaningful educational interaction or shared decision activity. We are in the best position to direct reactive customer management to a proactively engaged customer. And for the healthcare payers and providers reinventing themselves in the age of the consumer, we’re here to help.