Why Consumerization of Healthcare Has Only Just Begun

Consumerization has finally begun to disrupt the healthcare industry. The expectations of increasingly selective patients are redefining the medical landscape and laying the foundation for the future.
6 min read
08/25/21
All articles
By Daniel Piekarz
Sr. Vice President, Healthcare & Life Sciences, USA
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Why Consumerization of Healthcare Has Only Just Begun

Today, consumers hold more power than ever before. As technology evolves and empowers the age of information, consumers have seemingly uninhibited access to information about any given product, service, or topic. This is consumerization at work, and it has readily transformed brands, and even entire industries, around the world. By eliminating the barriers to information that once placed vendors in an advantaged position along the path to purchase, modern consumers are increasingly informed and influential regarding current and emerging retail trends.

To put it simply, consumers are firmly planted in the driver’s seat. And if we have learned anything over the last few years, it is this – consumerization does not end with traditional retail. In fact, that was only the beginning.

To this effect, consumerization has finally begun to disrupt the world of healthcare. As individuals assert more influence over their medical care, the healthcare industry as we once knew it has transformed. Suddenly, non-traditional healthcare providers have a seat at the table, vying for the attention of an increasingly health-conscious population with a vested interest in patient-focused care. In fact, it is estimated that the addressable market for the consumerization of healthcare was $600 billion in 2019 and will increase at a 5.5% CAGR through 2025.

Before 2020, this shift was already well on its way but, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, digital transformation and the accessibility of healthcare services remain a primary consideration for businesses and consumers alike. Innovation, especially in the realm of consumer convenience and connection, is not only welcome – but in a high demand. Passive patients have been replaced with vigilant, informed, and increasingly selective and health-conscious individuals, whose expectations are redefining the medical landscape and, in turn, laying the foundation for the future of healthcare. 

The Rise of Patient-Centric Care

Across the retail landscape, talk of “consumer-centric” service currently reigns supreme. Perhaps unsurprisingly, healthcare has followed a similar trajectory, with healthcare providers (both traditional and non-traditional) placing a notable emphasis on patient-centric care. This approach to healthcare is relatively straightforward – it asks that the healthcare provider looks beyond a case number, list of symptoms, or diagnosis to consider the patient on a more personal level. This approach demands an empathetic view that prioritizes the unique experience of each individual patient through the entirety of their healthcare journey in a way that ensures the best patient outcome.

With this in mind, healthcare practitioners and service providers must look beyond the product or service they offer to consider their relationship with any given patient – what support is offered? Are patient communications personalized? Do patients have access to on-demand, digital services providing enhanced convenience and autonomy? Do patients have access to their healthcare data? How is the patient lifecycle managed and cultivated across all touchpoints? Are costs and payment options feasible and clearly identified? These are the questions healthcare providers should aim to answer in the pursuit of patient loyalty and enhanced service.

The Perfect Storm: Changing Ideologies and Technological Innovation

The shift in the power dynamic between patients and healthcare providers is not reflective of the dwindling demand for healthcare services. Instead, the supply allows prospective patients an influx of choice when evaluating their options and developing a wellness routine. Just as consumer loyalty is earned, not given, patient loyalty requires a more in-depth, empathetic approach. With technological innovation paving the way to new breakthroughs, treatments, and procedures, the medical landscape has become increasingly advanced and competitive. From sophisticated telemedicine to remote care, comprehensive patient portals, AI-powered platforms, and more, healthcare providers are adopting new technologies at a rapid pace to serve patients better and, in turn, earn their long-term loyalty. Moreover, many of these technologies aim to give patients more control over their health than ever before by expanding beyond the walls of a traditional healthcare facility and bringing services into the comfort of patients’ homes via remote platforms and mobile apps.

On the patient side, we are also witnessing a critical shift in ideology – populations that were once reactive in their treatment of disease are increasingly interested in a more proactive approach to health, wellness, and preventative medicine. This is expected to become even more prevalent in the post-pandemic landscape, as communities remain hyper-aware of the potential health implications associated with common health factors, including, but not limited to, obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and more. Additionally, patients relying on private healthcare systems are increasingly conscious of high-deductible health plans. With this in mind, many patients are now hesitant to pay out of pocket for services without first vetting all possible options and providers based on perceived convenience, quality, and cost.

Remote Healthcare and the Post-Pandemic Landscape

Seemingly overnight, the COVID-19 brought the remote application of traditional healthcare services to the forefront of the industry. Most non-emergency treatments were shifted to virtual mediums to protect public safety, ushering in a wave of mobile innovation that empowered and revolutionized remote patient care.

While the efficacy of the remote service model is still subject to refinement, the convenience and affordability is unparalleled. As remote healthcare technology evolves and improves, many patients are expected to favor the remote healthcare model for non-emergency primary and specialty care services. Moreover, innovations in the realm of remote patient monitoring are expected to ramp up in the coming years, which will empower a more comprehensive and scalable approach to chronic illness management across populations that traditional systems have historically neglected.

You might be wondering, what does the future have in store? Will the consumerization of healthcare continue to move the needle? While patient-centric medicine and remote healthcare technology are here to stay, it is essential to acknowledge that the physician’s role is not rendered obsolete. Similar to the digital transformation experienced across other verticals, the healthcare industry is expected to benefit from a hybrid approach that marries the impact of in-person, traditional care with the additional services, convenience, and accessibility offered by virtual platforms. Physicians should not only inform the development and design of remote healthcare technology with the patient in mind, but, in the coming months, healthcare providers need to innovate their systems, adopt technologies and invest in secure patient data storage to remain competitive.

There is simply no denying it: the consumerization of healthcare has only just begun, and the time to shift to a more personalized, accessible, and empathetic healthcare system is now. As a healthcare provider or practitioner, if you are not helping patients save time, avoid longer stays, and improve their health while offering additional, personalized services and convenient payment options via digital technology – someone else will.

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