Blog post by Joe Babaian

The pharma pricing system was not built on the idea of consumer engagement. It was built… on market efficiencies. It was not built on the premise of consumerism.
~ Heather Bresch, CEO Mylan

Heather’s comment is striking and it’s emblematic of the entire healthcare system as we now know it. We have talked this topic into the ground in many regards – but I argue that consumerism in healthcare is continuously evolving and we must continue to engage if we wish to shape the direction to come.
I won’t be arguing that patients are or are not consumers since that’s an issue of semantics and is dependent on access, need, environment, and cost. We can find support for both arguments all around us. An interesting take is from Modern Healthcare’s CEO Power Panel survey, where we find the prevailing CEO definition of healthcare consumerism as a combination of factors:

Increased attention to customer satisfaction and feedback
Improved convenience
Greater quality transparency
Customer-centered design of facilities or technology offerings
Price transparency

None of these factors shift healthcare in a direction that is troubling – just the opposite, any engaged person or patient in the healthcare arena can readily find the value in these factors. None of them point to a dramatic (and sometimes feared) “Amazoning of healthcare” which is one of the measuring sticks we use as a comparison.

Even with varied definitions of consumerism in healthcare, the growth is seen here. “Rapidly” means stakeholders are seeing the directional change even as we are not sure what or where we are headed! It’s up to us to direct, move, and edit the journey.
A telling example showing which definition of consumerism is impacting the practice of healthcare is seen here. Clearly, consumer satisfaction and feedback are driving the practice of healthcare for many providers and organizations. The question is found in the actual practice of healthcare changes occurring in response to this top definition. Is a deep understanding of patient experience driving the changes or a more superficial wish to have a four-star review a la Amazon? Buying and being happy with a toaster still doesn’t equate to a truly positive patient experience.

Where do we go from here: are you a healthcare consumer? Perhaps we should define healthcare consumerism by how healthcare is changing to embrace patient experience and understanding the social determinants of health that impact this and all other discussions in healthcare.
Let’s remember that these discussions must not take place in a vacuum insulated from the real-world experiences of the patients themselves. If the consumerism discussion isn’t informed by our latest understanding of patient experience, healthcare access via the social determinants lens, regulations, market design, and changing patterns of use, we aren’t having a discussion worth having!
Please join us Tuesday, April 13, 2021, at 8:30 pm ET as we discuss the following topics:

T1: How might the consumerism model enhance the success of the healthcare system for patients? What do we miss in our drive towards consumerism?

T2: Which parts of healthcare consumerism provide the most value for patients? Can the drive to emulate an Amazon-like marketplace backfire?

T3: How should the healthcare system evolve to embrace the best of consumerism while recognizing that many healthcare choices aren’t choices at all but decisions we’re locked into?

T4: Please share any experiences when using healthcare that felt distinctly consumer oriented.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

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