Day one of HIMSS22 saw hospital executives struggle to define consumerism amid the pandemic. It can be tough to define consumerism accurately, as well as a controversial topic.
Some will argue that recasting patients as simply ‘healthcare consumers’ takes away some of the humanity aspects involved in medical care delivery.
Adding Context to Medical Consumerism
Speakers at the HIMSS’ healthcare conference tried to add context so the concept of consumerism could be addressed in hospital operations while still being able to offer a high quality of patient care along with the best possible patient experience.
The healthcare landscape had already begun to evolve from a world oriented by providers before Covid-19 had taken hold. Decisions made by the medical professionals started to become more consumer-centric, based on individuals’ healthcare requirements. This is why it is important to look at consumerism from a clinical perspective, not a clinician-based one.
It is important to bear the whole patient experience in mind and not just the experience the doctor in question is accustomed to providing.
Taking Patient Needs as Consumers into Account
Tom Kiesau, the head of Chartis Digital, spoke about the best way to think about meeting patient needs when thinking of them as both patients and consumers, at Monday’s panel.
A physician has to straddle the difference between management’s wishes to define patients as consumers and treating them as patients only. However, despite both of these being slightly different, they are just two sides of the same coin, making it possible to treat them as both.
If a patient is choosing which location to go for their annual flu shot, that could be compared to a shopper choosing which store to go to for a new pair of jeans. The difference in a medical setting is the ability of the patient to form a deeper connection with the healthcare provider. Integrating the consumer experience with the patient experience should result in a better experience for both patients and their doctors.
Competition has increased over the past 10 to 20 years, meaning it is inevitable that hospitals are going to have to go the extra mile. Adding features such as concierge programs or same-day scheduling possibilities can cement patient loyalty and boost ratings online without coming with a huge price tag.
Even before the pandemic, consumerism was at the forefront of many executives’ minds, as the healthcare landscape naturally evolved and competition between hospitals started to increase.
However, despite the increasing focus on consumerism, not many hospitals are completely committed to this trend. Most systems participating in the Kaufman Hall health system survey in 2021 did not reach the benchmark to qualify for best in class for pricing, redesign or digital infrastructure of delivery systems. In fact, only 7% of systems taking part in the survey did, even though consumerism is an important factor in staying competitive.
Strategies for Hospitals to Embrace Consumerism
Making it quicker and easier for potential patients to access the system, such as introducing chatbots, telehealth visits and scheduling tools are just some strategies hospitals could be using.
Patients go to hospitals rather than the hospitals going to them, which sums up the past few years’ healthcare paradigm accurately. However the whole paradigm is now shifting, says Nick Patel from Prisma Health.
It is a good idea for management to attempt identification of a patient journey’s key elements and get a better idea what hospitals should be trying to solve with technology. It is also important for hospital executives to make interoperability and governance priorities while focusing on what to offer as an organization.
The healthcare divide in the United States poses another issue, since layering technology right at the top means making this barrier even worse. Not every medical professional embraces digital improvements. Some simply want to help their patients the time-tested and old-fashioned way.