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Healthcare Consumerism Starts the Conversation: Can You Continue It?

Never has there been a better age to be a consumer.  More efficient supply chains move products quickly from concept to distribution.  Recommendation engines study our previous purchases and work to predict our next interest.  Customer reviews provide testimonials for everything from apple corers to zebra-patterned pants.  Often today, just a single, solitary click separates our desire to consume and from the act of consuming. 

The healthcare business model

Consumerism’s impact on the healthcare industry is one of the major catalysts for the equilibrium shift many in the healthcare industry feel, as the industry moves from a fee-for-service to fee-for-value business model.  In a fee-for-service model, patients and their health are an input, one to process through discrete, quantifiable actions.  In a fee-for-value business model, patients and their health are the output, one in which a larger spectrum of both quantitative and qualitative experiences impact the outcome of the patient/provider interaction.

Armed with data from Dr. Google, patients are now actively walking into their healthcare consumer experience ready with the same level of research and prep work as they bring into the purchase of a car.  Clinicians are no longer the only gatekeeper to medical knowledge, with their patients as passive recipients of access to their considerable wisdom about how our bodies work and how to fix them when they do not.  As with any change in balance, some clinicians have stumbled and others have regained their footing even more strongly in the shift of information asymmetry within the healthcare consumption experience.

The Value of healthcare consumerism

Dr. Milisa Rizer, chief medical information officer for Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center, a 2016 Davies award winner, recently spoke to STEPS to Value (podcast) about the positive impact she believes healthcare consumerism has had for patients and their ability to manage their health.

I really enjoy going into my office and seeing patients that are well informed, have looked up what they think is going on ahead of time so that we have the opportunity to address what might be their concerns with …they have actually taken more interest in their healthcare and what is going on for them…the availability of the information is helpful to get the conversation started in the exam room and starting to get them to think about their own healthcare…even if they choose some less evidence-based websites, they at least come in with the start of the conversation.

When Dr. Rizer describes an engaged patient, she is really talking about the most impactful person on the care delivery team.  Engaged patients are patients who demand agency in the decisions that affect themselves.  Engaged patients commit more fully to care, and in turn, often have better clinical outcomes.  Engaged patients bring down the costs of care.

Your patients are starting the conversation about their health.  Are you prepared to continue it?

Listen to the HIMSS STEPS to Value podcasts