Posted: August 22, 2017

Consumer expectations, technology, access to information, and a changing retail landscape are putting increasing pressure on health systems to adapt to a rise in healthcare consumerism.

A recent report from McKinsey & Co. looked at consumer trends in the healthcare industry and concluded that in order to better compete for patients, healthcare organizations must become more knowledgeable and responsive to what health consumers want and need. The McKinsey report, “Debunking Common Myths About Healthcare Consumerism," focused on separating fact from fiction in considering seven factors that are re-shaping the healthcare consumer market.

Myth 1: Healthcare is different from other industries
The McKinsey Consumer Health Insight (CHI) survey found that consumer expectations of healthcare organizations are similar to other industries. In particular, consumers want to do business with companies that deliver great customer service, meet their expectations, make life easier, and offer great value.

Health systems should look to non-healthcare companies, such as Apple and Amazon, for examples of how successful companies are delivering positive consumer experiences. The bar for meeting consumer expectations is being set by these market leaders. Amazon, for example, is laser-focused on creating a positive customer experience. As Amazon President Jeff Bezos recently told Entrepreneur: “If you're truly obsessed about your customers, it will cover a lot of your other mistakes."

The reality is that consumer expectations are set by non-healthcare industries and healthcare organizations will need to meet and exceed those expectations. It is the only way to ensure long-lasting customer satisfaction and loyalty which, as experienced in other industries, is the only way to achieve real competitive advantage and business success.

Myth 2: Consumers are reluctant to change primary care providers
The McKinsey survey found that 57% of consumers with a primary care provider would switch to a new PCP if their healthcare plan did not cover their current doctor. In addition, nearly half (45%) said that they had made an appointment with another doctor in the same practice as their PCP.

According to this survey, a patient's age, income, and overall health status are key factors in their willingness to consider alternatives to their primary care doctor.

Myth 3: Only millennials are using technology to manage their healthcare needs
While the McKinsey report confirmed that millennials are more likely to use technology than older consumers, there is a trend across all age groups to use technology for engaging with healthcare providers and scheduling appointments.

The technology gaining traction with consumers of all ages are mobile apps used to manage health related information such as exercise schedules, diet, and general health issues. Savvy healthcare organizations should be looking for ways to allow consumers to easily share this type of information with providers such as uploading it into their patient records or during a health risk assessment.

Myth 4: Retail clinics are a niche healthcare solution
In fact, retail clinics are becoming a mainstream option. Retail health clinics are transforming the delivery of services, particularly as they relate to immunizations, treatment for minor illnesses, and weight loss support. Plus, more than 60% of the respondents to the McKinsey CHI survey said they are willing to use healthcare services from a pharmacy or retail store. And more than 80% of those surveyed said they were aware of the availability of retail-based services.

According to McKinsey, there were nearly 2,000 retail clinics in the United States at the end of 2015 — with about half of them operated by CVS. Now, CVS plans to have 1,500 clinics open by the end of 2017. Moreover, both Walgreens and Walmart are entering the retail marketplace with primary care practices inside their retail stores.

Myth 5: Consumers know what they want from healthcare providers
Consumer perspectives and expectations are evolving when it comes to healthcare. In fact, the McKinsey survey found that, “there is often a disconnect between what consumers believe matters most, and what influences their opinions most strongly."

For example, based on survey responses, outcomes mattered the most to consumers in terms of their overall satisfaction. But a closer look reveals that factors such as empathy from front-line providers and the amount of pre- and post-op information a patient receives also have a large impact on satisfaction levels. One important takeaway for hospitals is that healthcare consumers may be overstating the importance of tangible factors and understating the importance of intangibles.

Myth 6: Premiums are the only important factor in choosing healthcare coverage
Cost is an important factor for healthcare consumers, but according to the McKinsey survey a significant number of people are willing to pay a higher premium in order to get lower deductibles, access to drug-related benefits, and/or coverage for alternative care, such as acupuncture and chiropractic care.

The McKinsey findings are supported by a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which found that only half of those who purchased insurance through a federally facilitated marketplace in 2015 chose the least expensive coverage option.

Myth 7: Consumers trust insurers with their health records
The McKinsey report also found that the majority of consumers have the most trust in their PCPs when it comes to storing and safeguarding personal data. Less than 25% trust health insurers, and even fewer people trust their employer or big online companies, such as Apple and Google.

What is clear from the McKinsey survey is that consumer expectations are evolving, and healthcare organizations need to consider a value proposition that ultimately delivers a combination of service, quality, and value.

The bottom line is that consumer expectations are no different in the healthcare industry than in any other industry. For healthcare providers, customer retention and growth will increasingly depend on both customer satisfaction and positive outcomes.

Want to learn more about how to translate consumer experience expectations to healthcare? Download our eBook, Bringing the Amazon Experience to Healthcare.