Will pampering the Me and I kind of patient consumers with digital intervention tools be the new sustained healthcare delivery model?

Servicing the ‘Me and I’ kind of patients is in trend now. Patients want benefits of their customization and they are wanting ownership of the experience itself. This post highlights how patient consumerism has changed and how healthcare companies are now structuring new models to personalize care.

The global healthcare industry was awed by tech giant Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Nuance Communications for $19.7 billion in an all-cash transaction. This purchase by Microsoft was intended to complement its healthcare cloud products with Nuance Communications’ voice documentation and transcription technologies to drive greater value to its customers and also to its customers’ customers.

To be more specific, through the purchase, Microsoft will exploit Nuance’s AI-based technological capabilities to accelerate its ability to deliver in healthcare making Microsoft more adaptive to serve its customers. This deal reflects an obvious fact that riveting services around customer needs by making it more personal is what even large corporate conglomerates constantly aim to do in sustainable healthcare delivery.

Apart from making healthcare delivery more personal for consumers, Microsoft, apparently, will layer Nuance’s AI capability to its cloud-based healthcare platform to ease the overhead caused by error-prone manual processes and develop healthcare practices that are more agile, with less governance, more trust, and greater innovation. Mind you, the trust factor here is given increased importance.

So, with the global pandemic setting newer trends in the healthcare delivery model, the archaic trends are undergoing a sea change, ushering more digital healthcare services to impact consumerism in healthcare. As David Bradshaw, Senior Vice President, Consumer and Employer solutions, Cerner Corporation, in a latest podcast titled ‘The tipping point of healthcare consumerism and engagement’ said, “It comes down to people, processes and technology. We’re bringing consumers into the digital world as an active member of the care team.”

Changing patient consumerism redefines delivery models

Patients and their caregivers are more informed today than they were just 20 years back. Aakash Ganju, co-Founder and CEO at Saathealth, in an opinion post on healthcare consumerism on an online content platform, had expressed that today consumer-minded patients have made way for interesting new healthcare models. “With the demystified world in their hands now, the healthcare consumer began to change the conversation. It started with the informed patient asking questions, demanding answers to conditions they now had read about. Doctors and hospitals had to start adapting to the new informed consumer — now they had to start communicating more with the patients. And with increased information (and some increase in knowledge), patients started to assert their opinions. Patients began to take notice and use new crowdsourced information to further refine their healthcare choices,” Ganju had quoted in his post.

Ganju had further opined that patient centricity has unequivocally changed the direction of healthcare into a new way and healthcare providers, hospitals, clinics and doctors have begun to take notice and started instituting mechanisms to get ahead of this tsunami of public opinion.

Definitely, consumers’ opinions about their care are stronger than ever, and it was found that there’s increased influence from payors and employers responding to consumerism trends. Together, these dynamics create pressure for healthcare organizations to find new innovations and digital tools to meet demands related to cost, convenience, treatment, and the overall care experience.

Huron Consulting Group, a management consulting firm that offers services to the healthcare, life sciences, and other sectors, has a similar take in its latest market study. The company’s Healthcare 2021 Consumer Market Report warns healthcare organizations that they can no longer afford to limit their knowledge and understanding of the consumer to financial or clinical information. Shifting to a consumerism mindset is about not only knowing the population by demographic or disease-specific segmentation but by understanding their attitudes, values, and preferences toward healthcare. The report indicates that people know they want healthcare to more closely mirror their experiences in industries like retail and hospitality.  

Huron’s research finds that, while consumers may not have perfect vision when it comes to examining their healthcare options, their preferences are coming quickly into focus. Consumers choose and use healthcare based on a combination of attitudes and preferences related to satisfaction, quality, convenience, and personalization. From the research, five distinct consumer segments emerge, which can be labeled as 1) me-focused, 2) results-focused,3) time- and money-oriented, 4) digitally inclined, and 5) affordable-results-driven.

Heeding to patient convenience, engagement, personalization, and trust will chart success

Huron, in its report, stresses that for those who embrace those segments seriously, consumerism in healthcare offers tremendous opportunity. Healthcare systems can grow their businesses while generating better patient care and outcomes. Providers must begin building a 360-degree view of their consumer base to get a clearer, deeper understanding of the people they serve and their healthcare choices.

That is why healthcare strategists stress on the need for providers to start offering convenience, whether it be in the form of telehealth, retail clinics, or online bill pay options. Findings from a report by NRC Health and CHRISTUS Health: Convenience is now the number 1 factor that influences which provider a consumer will select for their care has few relevant details on patient consumerism.

Brian Wynne, Vice President and General Manager of NRC Health thinks that there is more of that empowerment going on with consumers where they feel they’re more in the driver’s seat. Part of that is obvious they have the selection criteria and access to information. People are more engaged and believe that they are taking more ownership of their health. The patient of the modern age wants care when they want it and how they want it and they’re not shy about shopping around. So, the consumer is more in charge of his or her decision-making. It is important to know what type of convenience a consumer wants.

As Jessica Oveys, Director at Cerner Corporation, rightly says, “Being able to text and engage with your clinicians in a way that feels personal and direct is going to be the most important capability moving forward and one that consumers are going to grow to expect.”

Spotlight on Patient Convenience

There is a lot woven within the aspect of convenience. Addressing convenience for a patient could also mean empowering the patient with the right tools to take better ownership of his/her health. With the onset of the pandemic, digital access to healthcare services has created new avenues for convenience-based delivery of treatment.

It is pertinent for me to give you an example of how digital applications can create that convenience for patients. Prabhakaran T P, co-Founder & COO of US-headquartered Cooey Health says his company has developed digital tools that allow its users to check their vitals by posting a selfie. You read it right…just through a selfie!

Now, post the pandemic home healthcare has seen a boom. And triaging patients to tackle the inflow of hospital admits with minor Covid symptoms is done through teleconsultation. In such a scenario, checking vitals at home calls for convenience. Delivering the required convenience can make a patient gain trust in digital healthcare systems and also provide avenues to healthcare delivery firms in charting new models that engage patients in a more sustained manner.

Another aspect of consumerism is the customization of products and services with a very patient-centric approach. According to Prabhakaran, customization pays back big time. He says Cooey has a unique ‘Service-By-Design’ approach to address service delivery. “Cooey’s proprietary Six-Level Adaptive Monitoring System provides a personalized and full continuum of care, even at home, with the purpose of extending and improving quality of life. The platform helps its users capture, store, retrieve and port their medical data electronically. This apart, alerts and trends provide an ability to share their experiences on their illness in a closed but secured environment. It ensures ongoing collaboration between doctors, caregivers, patients, and family members. The collected data further get sliced, analyzed, and presented to the user as actionable steps that ultimately result in improved care prevention, overall wellness, and cost-effectiveness. The embedded analytics would also come to the aid of the caregivers/care providers in knowing about the patient before they actually begin the care management process.

Depending on customers’ needs, these services can be delivered a la carte or bundled to bring maximum value. In addition, Cooey’s streamlined data-capturing devices are deeply rooted in electronic health records, facilitating easy capture, data analytics with high specificity. Cooey would use the macro-level insights gained to discover the unmet data analytics needs of the healthcare & pharmaceutical space by blending technology and unique statistical/mathematical concepts, these data sets can further be sliced, cleansed, analyzed, and supplied to end-users to enable quick-win scenarios,” informs Prabhakaran.

Services for ‘Me and I’ kind of patients gain heat

Servicing the I and Me kind of patients is in trend now. Patients want benefits of their customization and they are wanting ownership of the experience itself.

In Accenture’s Digital Health Technology Vision 2020 report there is a specific analysis on ‘I in Experience’. This segment of the report indicates a fact that people today expect more from their digital experiences. They want to feel important and as if the healthcare organization recognizes and takes notice of them. Gone are the days of mass services and black box personalization, stresses the report. Leading healthcare organizations are becoming collaborative partners in creating — not just providing — experiences that help consumers to feel important and informed. They are working with healthcare consumers themselves to create new digital experiences. https://www.accenture.com/us-en/insights/health/accenture-health-tech-vision-2020-i-in-experience

The global pandemic has further spurred this want for ‘I’-based conveniences and Accenture notices that across the globe massive effort from companies, governments, universities and individuals is on and are rushing to accelerate innovation in providing immersive and meaningful digital experiences to satisfy their patient customers.

And the ‘Me’ kind of patients are definitely consumers who take increased ownership of their health and data. They expect their healthcare service provider to deliver clear and concise information on treatment care and cost and to express their ability to balance between virtual visits and a trusted physician relationship. And of course, the full potential of Artificial Intelligence has moved beyond automation of simple tasks to being a powerful collaboration tool between human and machines, addressing customization to cater to the minutest medical need of a patient. So, pampering the ‘I and Me’ kind of patients with digital and virtual tools are a way to address new age healthcare consumerism is what analysts say.

Future outlook

DELOITTE’S FUTURE OF Health Vision for 2040 has the consumer at the center. Over time, Deloitte has observed an increase in consumer agency and activation, which drive many of the underlying trends. But the pandemic’s widespread impacts on the health care system and consumer are bringing into clearer focus aspects on the vision for the future of health. Deloitte admits that harder-to-imagine ideas about the ways in which consumers will engage in their health in the future were proved to be realistic by the changes forced on the system by the pandemic.

Many senior leaders in health care and life sciences agree that the future of the industry will be shaped by and centered around customers and customer experience. As customers become more activated and empowered about their health care, organizations are realizing that if they don’t evolve with customers, they may risk losing market share.

Evolution with the customer becomes critical as the size of each consumer segment has notably shifted during the pandemic. It is now known that the 2021 and future consumers are the most digitally inclined population cluster. The digitally inclined group represents the youngest of any segment (ages 18-44) – and the fastest growing. From 2019 to 2021, the digitally inclined segment experienced 25% growth. Considering the segment’s age and rate of growth, these consumers may provide valuable insights into the future of healthcare.

Therefore, it is essential to understand which age category is the ‘I and me’ kind of patient categorizes into. Understanding the category can throw light on the differences in their attitudes, behaviors, motivations, and needs.

Deloitte in its report says this understanding is important for many activities and functions, ranging from developing and promoting digital tools to elevating brand in the market, to designing and offering a new product or service and addressing customer complaints through the channel most important to them.

It is also relevant to providing personalized health care, such as advice on improving individual health risks and motivating adherence to a care plan, and meeting the customer where they are when it comes to information, resources, and therapies.

It is also clear that consumers are looking for specific digital options that will provide deeper personalization of their care experience and treatment plans. Wearables, for example, are increasingly a tool that consumers rely on to support their health outcomes. Huron’s research finds that 35% of consumers use a wearable device. Of those who use a wearable, 39% report sharing health-related data from their wearable device with providers as part of a treatment plan, up from 31% in 2019. So, these tools are critical and present a significant opportunity for healthcare organizations to engage their consumers.

Undeniably, COVID-19 has challenged consumers’ sense of well-being and has accelerated their desire and determination to become more active, engaged, and empowered in managing their health. Consumers are learning about their health risks, communicating with their doctors in new and different ways, and changing their attitudes about data privacy. It is in the hands of healthcare organizations to study and understand all these aspects of healthcare consumerism, apply digital technologies with higher interoperability to satisfy the growing ‘Me and I’ kind of healthcare consumers.

Anusha Ashwin
Anusha Ashwin

When I started out as a trainee copy editor at a publishing house, least did I expect myself to be traveling along with the digital evolution of content. Ever since the digital model became a medium of providing content, my career kick-started. 
I consider my career to take a solid shape during the current phase, as I set shot to work in times of the digital era. Today, I am able to resonate with the demands of writing content tailored to meet the requirements of the new age consumer that is driven by SEO and SEM.
While with CyberMedia, I have handled content at premier magazines like BioSpectrum and Voice&Data – India’s foremost business magazines in the biotech & telecom verticals that have been instrumental in bridging the gaps in India’s life sciences and ICT domains respectively.
The blessing here is that, through the writings, I am on a constant self-discovery mode. I have found a passion, which is writing in focus on digital healthcare, communication-based tech startups, and health-tech entrepreneurs. Somewhere down me, there is this strong educational foundation in Microbiology and Biotechnology that had to play a part!
As India becomes more Atmanirbhar, I am destined to stay focussed on aligning my content contribution passion with Digital India plans, where I interact with numerous startup entrepreneurs and other organizations that are going to be part of the ambitious Make in India and Make for India programs.

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