We’ve all heard the old adage, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
The quote is most often attributed to Benjamin Franklin in a 1789 letter regarding the potential lasting power of the new United States Constitution. But based on events witnessed throughout my career in marketing, it may be time to add a third certainty: consumerism. Even in healthcare.
Patients are now expecting the same conveniences they find in other areas of their lives to be available in their healthcare experience as well. They believe their interaction with the healthcare system should be much more of an ongoing, 24/7 communication rather than episodic. And because they are paying more and more out of pocket as a result of higher health insurance deductibles, they are beginning to shop around, compare services and research their healthcare options.
- An alarming 81% of consumers are unsatisfied with their healthcare experience.
- Consumers are beginning to research the cost of healthcare services with maternity care and joint replacement surgery topping the list for types of services researched.
- 29% of consumers say that viewing online ratings or reviews is the first step in their search to find a new physician
So as we have seen in nearly every other business category, patients are beginning to expect more convenience, compare costs, voice their experiences and search out the opinions of others in social media.
Healthcare providers can learn lessons across industries to adapt. Banking, for example, has undergone a service revolution. Years ago, the debate of the day was whether customers preferred to interact with a teller in the bank, an instant cash machine on the street, an after-hours banker on the telephone or online. The answer, which seems obvious today, was that the bank needed to meet them in all of those places and anywhere else the customer wanted to be served.
If we can trust history as a guide, there are providers who will seize the opportunity and find a way to meet those desires. It could mean more after-hours care, physician comparison tools or flexible payment options. While the right answer may not be clear just yet, one thing is: consumerism is the way of the future.