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    Top four healthcare industry changes to watch in 2017

     

    Consumer changes

    Healthcare consumerism shifts the focus of healthcare-related experiences from providers, payers, and other players in the healthcare industry to the end user—the consumers. Joseph V. Sabatina, CPA, director, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, says the rise in consumerism has occurred, in part, as a result of the value-based care transition and the focus on population health and longitudinal care. The increase in high deductible health plans and the resulting cost shift to consumers has also played a large part. As a result, consumers are demanding more education, more accurate information, more value-based options, and more transparency.

    Rohan Kulkarni, MBA, vice president of strategy and portfolio, Conduent, adds that the rise of health insurance exchanges and patient engagement initiatives also play a role.

    Cost and quality of care are top considerations for consumers when selecting a healthcare provider. In fact, according to research from Xerox, at least 50% of millennials said they delayed treatment due to cost concerns.

    What’s more, advancements in technology have created consumer expectations for on-demand, everywhere access to everything from banking to booking airline tickets, to buying shoes to ordering takeout, Kulkarni says.

    Like those who work in the retail industry, executives can embrace this trend by adopting a consumer-centric approach to providing healthcare-related services, Sabatina says.  

    Further, “Organizations should analyze their charges and modify them so the result is a reasonable and defensible charge structure that can be publicized in the marketplace along with providing front-end price capabilities in an effort to attract patients who shop for select services,” Sabatina says. He advises having call centers to address patient inquiries regarding charges, patient out-of-pocket costs, and payment-related issues. Likewise, the ease in which a patient can be apprised of the registration process, scheduling availabilities, costs, and financial counseling all help to provide a favorable patient experience.

    Sabatina also advises thinking outside the box regarding patient convenience. It’s important to provide ease of access, such as web-based patient portals for patients interested in cost information, scheduling procedures, accessing financial counseling information, making payment inquiries, and making payments. More innovative solutions worthy of consideration are mobile technologies via smartphones, tablets, and so forth that allow access through handheld devices. “All of these efforts toward providing a patient-centric experience build trust and loyalty, and ultimately win customers,” he says.

    In addition, Kulkarni says payers need to communicate with their members throughout the year, and not just by mailing flyers or emailing information without taking relevancy into account. “They should follow up on active patients and encourage their patient population to meet preventive needs in collaboration with their payers,” he says.

    Lastly, payers should make consumer engagement a metric that they track along with profitability. “We are at an inflection point; those that make the cultural shift will win both the race to the financials and the health outcomes for their membership,” says Kulkarni.

    Karen Appold is a medical writer in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.

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