The Consumerization Of Healthcare Has Arrived

The Consumerization Of Healthcare Has Arrived

Buying a car and working with the government are the only situations considered less pleasant than working with our healthcare ecosystem.

Critical findings, according to Tom Swanson, Adobe’s head of healthcare industry strategy and marketing, citing the company’s December 2019 survey during a webinar about the consumerization of healthcare in 2020.

Yet nearly three-quarters of healthcare executives think they’ve moved beyond transaction-based selling to providing the holistic experiences customers say they want. This disparity is made all the more glaring amid orders to shelter in place and people turning to digital for their healthcare needs.

Consumers expect their healthcare experiences to be like the ones they’re having in the financial services, retail, and travel and hospitality industries, Swanson said. More than ever, that calls for a change in the traditional provider-focused healthcare model to an engaged, consumer-centric healthcare model.

“You have the opportunity to become a trusted member of the [healthcare customers’] inner care circle, where they stay engaged with you continuously as opposed to the episodic nature of engaging and dropping out,” he explained.

Even prior to the coronavirus outbreak, consumers have been conducting a healthy portion of their information-gathering on their own. Across the three demographic groups Adobe surveyed (18- to 34-year-olds, 35- to 54-year-olds, and 55-plus), 60%, on average, first head to the Internet to research a symptom.

Even after a physician’s diagnosis, more than nine out of 10 people across all groups head back online for additional information.

“The idea that the digital shift in healthcare consumerization is still coming is actually erroneous,” Swanson said. “It’s already here.”

This “digital-first mentality” calls for personalized, digital engagements that offer consumers the information they’re seeking in the channel they’re seeking it, and enabling them to handle certain tasks on a self-service basis, such as managing their appointments and prescriptions, “and paying for things online like we can in every other industry,” he added.

Consumers’ biggest frustrations? The answers varied by age group, according to the Adobe survey, with those 35 and older citing simplicity of experience as their top frustration. Younger respondents singled out cost transparency.

Swanson attributed the difference to expectations stemming from customers’ prior experiences.

“The folks over 55 years old have had the most experience with the old healthcare model, and so there’s a resignation of, ‘This is how it works,’ or there’s a comfort that this is how it works,” he reasoned. “But if we’re going to identify the buyers of healthcare services, where they are now, and pay attention to the 18-to-54 demographic, these are significant issues that impact buying decisions that healthcare customers make.”

One of the ways to address healthcare consumers’ frustrations calls for providing a seamless, cross-channel experience.

“Forty percent of the healthcare consumers we’ve identified start a digital activity on one device and finish it on another. … The passage of information across ecosystem is a significant problem,” Swanson said.

This is where software that makes it possible for information to be identified with one person and their devices, and then can pass that information from one device to another, comes into play, he explained.

“The capturing of this data and the ability to digitize paper forms where you are capturing data, is what enables you to then share it with other participants in the ecosystem,” Swanson said.

But the customer journey doesn’t end with a form. Next comes the ability to communicate with consumers in real time, at scale, and personalized based on where they are in their journeys.

Whether you’re welcoming someone to your program or providing cost transparency through billing or monthly statements, “you have to make every digital touch point count,” Swanson said. “These are all critical components to orchestrating the patient journey that will step them through the steps you want them to take, but also provide them the transparency, ease of use, and personalization that today’s healthcare consumers are seeking.”

The way to achieve that is heavily based in automation—artificial intelligence and machine learning, he said.

“Your consumers expect you to know them and respond to them as individuals. That can be extremely difficult to scale manually,” Swanson noted.

But when you deploy AI, and can automate the communications process—the building of audience segments and the dynamic assembly and delivery of content to those different segments in the channels they want it—“you improve the patient journey and orchestrate the journey so they’re taking the steps you want them to take in the way that they want to take those steps,” he said.

The end result, Swanson said, is a much more engaged and consumer-centric healthcare model.