As the New York Times article "Price of a New Hip? Many Hospitals Are Stumped" recently pointed out, today's healthcare consumer is one with the freedom, fiscal incentive and resources to shop around and do their research on the best, most affordable healthcare procedures. The article highlights the fact that only half of 100 hospitals surveyed across the country could provide exact pricing for a hip replacement, and those prices that were cited varied widely, from just over $11,000 to more than $125,000.
Information oracles like Google and WebMD have brought patient engagement to a new level, ushering in a more level playing field on behalf of more technically savvy patients. In this newfound world of healthcare options, doctor-patient trust is earned rather than implicit, and patients are finally starting to hold their healthcare practitioners to the same standards they would any other business transaction. Why pay $125,000 for an operation when you can pay significantly less and receive (hopefully) the same care quality? Establishing some pricing transparency looms large on that agenda.
Propelled by patient demand, a little legislation and a competitive environment, healthcare organizations are beginning to approach their business as any traditional B2C company would:
- paying closer attention to the ebb and flow of market share
- putting extra emphasis on producing a positive customer experience
- experiencing compensation fluctuation based on outcomes
Read that last one again. A popular approach in virtually all other business models, the concept has been a long time coming in healthcare. Patients will flock to providers most capable of meeting desired outcomes within predictable price ranges. Eventually, facilities that aren't forthright with this information will be less favored.
Putting the Person Back in Personal Care
Providers will also need to rethink how they appeal to patients in this new, consumer-driven healthcare era. This will likely involve re-instituting a personal touch in what has become a crowded, busy and impersonal environment. Though some providers cite new digital workflows as barriers to patient engagement, technology may hold the key to bringing health consciousness into everyday life, making health feel personal once again.
A handful of power-house providers, like Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Clinic, are answering that call by engaging patients in new ways:
- thousands of followers on social sites
- patient story forums
- tweetchats on aging
Patients will continue to show broader interest in their personal health if providers and vendors allied to the field can continue to find ways to bring better transparency and equilibrium to the doctor/patient relationship, and can come up with innovative ways to get - and keep - them engaged.