Here’s our take on this sweeping shift, and what you can do to make sure your organization rides it out successfully.
Rising Costs, Rising Engagement
It was found, over the past eight years in the U.S., that even patients with employer-provided insurance saw their out-of-pocket expenses increase by more than 50%. This is mind-boggling; consumers would have been remiss not to have taken notice. And as stated here, “Consumers, because they have more money at risk, will be increasingly engaged in their healthcare and become more price sensitive for primary and retail healthcare services.”
In other words, consumers used to be less concerned about which healthcare company their money went toward and would often choose a provider based on a convenient location or hours. But today, since these same consumers are feeling the squeeze on their own finances, they’re sitting up and taking notice of where their money is going. This all means that the healthcare industry is being viewed through a consumerized lens like never before.
What are the Points of Comparison?
Now that consumers are responsible for so many of their healthcare expenses, one of the first factors they’re evaluating is cost. Can I get my x-ray done by this vendor for half of what it would cost me to go to a different vendor? That point alone could be enough to cause someone to choose one provider over another.
In addition to cost, consumers are continuing to seek out quality, both in terms of care and overall experience. In order to do this, they now often turn to review sites like RateMDs and Vitals.com to see what kinds of experiences other patients have had with the provider they’re considering. A study even found that consumers tend to prefer (and believe) non-clinical reviews on commercial websites more than government-issued reviews on healthcare providers. And another one showed that more than 40% of consumers say they trust online reviews "completely" or "very much." These are yet further testaments to how healthcare consumers are becoming more and more like mainstream consumers.
Steps you can Take
The biggest takeaway from all this for healthcare companies is that your business is now needing to compete in the marketplace more than (arguably) ever before. Here’s what we recommend in order to make sure you come out on the right side of any competitive evaluation:
1. Revisit your pricing.
Since cost is one of the main areas consumers are looking into, make sure your prices are still in line with industry standards. If you’re not sure, do a little market research or make some anonymous phone calls to competitors to find out how others in similar fields are charging their patients. You might find it’s necessary to reduce some of your prices, or you might find you’re actually not charging enough. Either way, it’s important to know how your costs stack up against those of your competitors, since that’s something your average consumer is going to know soon (if they don’t already).
2. Dig into online research.
Next, check out all the most popular review sites for your particular segment of the healthcare industry. How are your ratings? Do you have more negative reviews than positive ones, or vice versa? Are people commenting on your social channels? As an aside, if you find anything that’s inappropriate or offensive being said, you could benefit from a content moderation program (ask us more about this). After you check out all these digital channels, you should start to be able to see themes of what patients have seen as your high points and low points. This can help you get a better idea of what you need to keep and what you need to fix.
3. Reevaluate your end-to-end customer experience.
There are a lot of components that go into the overall customer experience, and one of the main ones is customer service. Data reveals that even when customers receive a referral for a specialist, 90% still conduct research on providers before scheduling with them, so that means every person they speak with from your company needs to contribute to a great experience or they may never even walk in your doors. If someone calls to find out more about one of your providers, whoever answers the phone needs to be ready to answer their questions or give them more information. Also, consider if you have multichannel customer support in place, as this can help you provide a better all-around customer experience.
As the healthcare industry continues this shift toward consumerization, your organization can continue to grow and thrive as long as you understand the reality of this new dynamic. Consumers will be doing their homework before they come to your office, and will be holding you to a new (and public) level of accountability. If you’d like to learn more, or could use some help improving your customer service strategy and navigating this changing landscape, we’d love to help. Contact us anytime.