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What Is the Consumerization of Healthcare?

Written by Alida

Published May 18, 2021

Healthcare consumerization is shaking up an industry many thought couldn’t be touched by changing consumer behaviors.

We’re uncovering what consumerization looks like in the context of healthcare and offering four actionable takeaways that can keep care providers ahead of the healthcare consumerization curve.

What the consumerization of healthcare means

For care providers, healthcare consumerization is “a shift in focus on the individual consumer rather than the market as a whole.” For patients, consumerization means “individuals [are] asserting more influence and control over their medical and wellness care.” 

Patients who once took a passive approach to receiving care are now in the driver’s seat. They’re questioning everything from the diagnoses they’re given to the cost of care. Their business is no longer something you can take for granted. Instead, patient loyalty must be earned.


3 Causes behind healthcare consumerization

What are the motivating factors behind this new mindset? Here are three major factors that have sparked this transformation:

1. Increased access

Today’s patients have greater access than ever to healthcare services and information. There are plenty of telehealth offerings, urgent care clinics, and other new entrants into the healthcare space to choose from—many with pricing transparency and innovative and flexible care options patients haven’t seen before. 

Patients have increased access to additional care options, greater flexibility for hours and options, and a massive surge in telehealth creating even greater access to services previously only available through in-person service. During the first quarter of 2020, the number of telehealth visits increased by 50%, compared with the same period in 2019. Continuing updates to telehealth policies and regulatory waivers have provided consumers with increased access to acute, chronic, primary, and specialty care.

This not only puts pressure on traditional models of care delivery but also makes the space you’re operating in a lot more competitive.  

Patients are constantly discovering more options available to them, and if you’re unable to offer the desired care—say, a specific clinical trial they’ve read about, or a minimally invasive procedure—that patient will soon find out who can offer it. 

2. Consumer empowerment

Informed customers with high expectations are getting their needs met across industries like retail, consumer packaged goods, and technology. Best-in-class companies in these other verticals are putting the customer first, creating the most desirable experience possible to keep buyers coming back. 

And it’s not a stretch to expect informed and empowered customers to be informed and empowered patients. 4 in 5 of your patients will conduct their own diagnosis research, comparing online findings with the information you’re offering.

Whether they’re in need of blood work, birth control, or bypass surgery, your patients are approaching healthcare with a consumer mindset. They’re becoming more opinionated about all aspects of care, seeking out the best possible patient experience, and raising the bar for care providers.

Companies with business models centered on giving consumers greater access to their medical data are shaping the rise of empowered healthcare consumers. Patients who can connect the dots across their own electronic health records, claims data, lab work, and other information have a clearer picture of their overall health and can become more involved in where it’s going.

Specifically, the American Hospital Association sees empowered healthcare consumers leveraging their own data and placing a new emphasis on prevention and well-being rather than treatment. PwC adds that you should plan on improving digital relationships if you want to keep patients happy.

3. Risings costs of care

Last but certainly not least, cost is a highly influential driver behind the consumerization of healthcare. The cost of care has gradually crept upward, making customers of the healthcare industry stop and think about what they’re actually paying for, and finding ways to make care more affordable for their families. 

Due to increasing consumer demands, patients are seeing more price transparency from healthcare providers than ever before. They’re now able to get estimates for surgeries and other services, meaning they can comparison shop among the available providers.

Have your own costs quadrupled in a 10-year period, like the average health plan deductible did between 2006 and 2016? If so, it should come as no surprise that rising costs come with rising customer expectations.


4 Ways to start building a better patient experience 

If you’re aiming to build out an experience-driven healthcare program that’s geared toward empowered healthcare consumers, these four tactics can put you on the right path to success:

1. Ask your patients “why”

You might be using traditional assessments like the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey to gather patient input—but these won’t tell you everything you need to know.

HCAHPS response rates have declined steadily over the past 15 years. Standardized questions, a lack of context, and extended turnaround times mean you’re not getting the most immediate and accurate look at patient feedback.

Instead, proactively collect feedback from  your patients to ask the most relevant questions in a timely manner to uncover the “why” behind what they’re feeling so that you can enhance the patient experience in ways that truly meet the mark.

2. Iterate with your audience

Once you gather actionable insights from your patients, your next step is to co-create patient experience improvements along with them. 

If healthcare consumers share their opinions, they’ll want to know what’s changing and when, and that their input is making a difference. 

Building a community of patients who are willing to provide feedback is a valuable way to keep these lines of communication open and continue iterating until you’ve created the optimal, experience-driven offerings.

3. Keep an open mind

Don’t brush off bad feedback or input you don’t entirely understand. Within that negative feedback, look for opportunities for improvement.

And, as a healthcare leader, remember that it’s not about what you think will work. Listen to the voice of your patients and infuse their perspectives into everything you do. 

With this open-minded approach, you’ll have more clarity about what changes need to be made, and you'll be able to speak with confidence about how you can best serve your patient population.

4. Consistently analyze and measure

If you’re committed to building a healthcare program that puts patients at the center, it won’t be a one-and-done deal. Instead, dedicate resources to ongoing analysis and improvement. 

Alida’s CXM & Insights platform makes it easy to co-create with with patients, facilitate digital insight communities, collect and act on deep insights and broad feedback, and measure your progress.


Keep up with healthcare consumerization

Ready to tackle the challenges and opportunities surrounding the consumerization of healthcare? Download a free copy of our latest e-book, Prioritizing Patient Experience to Keep up with the Consumerization of Healthcare.


Prioritizing Patient Experience Get the EBOOK