Consumerism is altering the economic landscape. One only need look at the decline in sales at bricks-and-mortar retail stores to grasp the power of consumers and the popularity of web technology (see: The Future Of Retailing: The Technology Revolution Is Now). Meanwhile, despite predictions that consumerism will take hold in healthcare, there is little evidence that healthcare executive are taking this trend seriously (see: Consumerism among Healthcare Patients with High-Deductibles Has Not Yet Altered How Most Hospitals and Healthcare Systems Operate). Below is an excerpt from this article:
...[H]ospitals have been slow to react to...interest by patients in transparency in prices and quality by developing a consumer strategy...."Although the majority of hospitals and health systems recognize the importance of consumerism, most have not put consumerism into action,” ...[a recent] report states.....The authors of the “2016 State of Consumerism in Healthcare” report surveyed executives at more than 100 US hospitals and health systems. They found that:
• 66% of those surveyed said it was important to develop insights into patients’ behaviors and expectations, but less than 25% of healthcare organizations had the tools to gather and analyze patient data, and only 16% had the capability to launch strategies based on consumer insights;
• 79% of respondents said there is a pressing need to understand and enhance patient experience, but only 18% have employed advanced means to do so; and
• Only 29% of respondents consider strategic pricing a high priority, and only 9% have advanced pricing strategies in place.
....[A healthcare executive] advised hospitals and health systems to find new ways to get patients access to healthcare through online scheduling, urgent care clinics, or virtual visits.
Why does consumerism not seem to be a major force in healthcare with executives remaining relatively aloof from the trend? Here are a few personal ideas about what is going on:
- Major health systems often function as quasi-monopolies in their local markets. Furthermore, their power and influence is expanding as they purchase physician practices, leaving fewer private physicians in the market (see: Physicians Continue to Leave Private Practice for Employment).
- Pricing of healthcare services, particularly in hospitals, is hopelessly complicated and lacks tansparency, depriving consumers of the ability to make choices (see: Coding for Hospital Services; One Reason for the High Cost of Healthcare; Some Surgicenters Listing Prices, Reject Insurance, and Require Cash Payment; Transparency in Health Care: What Consumers Need to Know).
- Healthcare choices are often complicated and based on complex medical science and technology. For example, here are some possible choices relating to hip replacement: inpatient versus outpatient, minimally invasive versus standard approach, type and manufacturer of prosthesis, experience of surgeon, and postoperative rehabilitation regimen. Some patients will research the topic before scheduling the operation but most will defer to the advice of their surgeon.
- Many healthcare consumers, usually those with adequate insurance, are satisfied with the care that they receive and may not engage in "shopping behavior" as it relates to choices. Another way to state this premise is that there is a major difference between a consumer and a patient. The latter is often risk averse when their personal health is at stake.
Taking all of this into consideration, I am not very surprised that most hospital executives assign little priority to consumerism in healthcare. At least for the present, they have "bigger fish to fry" but this may change in the future, at least incrementally.