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How hospitals are addressing the rise in consumerism – Becker’s Hospital Review

Kelly Gooch –  | 

Becker’s asked healthcare leaders to share how their organizations have responded to the rise of consumerism in the industry.

Here are their responses, presented alphabetically. 

Editor’s Note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Heidi Aylsworth
Chief strategy officer of Swedish Health Services (Seattle)

Swedish is committed to innovating and evolving to ensure we are responding to the changes in our industry as well as the changing needs of our patients. The most dramatic changes are related to how patients access and receive their care. We are developing more online scheduling opportunities, expanding our ambulatory infrastructure and further developing our virtual care capabilities. 

Mike Dame
Vice President of marketing and communications at Carilion Clinic (Roanoke, Va.)

Consumerism has become such an esoteric and somewhat grating buzzword to many; let’s retire it in favor of something less polarizing. I prefer to frame the concept as a patient-driven experience, a strategic northern star. This is not a new or radical idea — it’s simply delivering care and services when, where and how patients want. And that requires sea change in how we operate. So, let’s admit that, quit kicking the can, embrace that future and get to work! The patient-driven experience must be grounded in clinical excellence defined by standard protocols and consistency of delivery. Beyond that, it means convenient and readily available care; transparent pricing and simplified billing supported by education; and service in which every interaction, be it in-person or virtual, is seamless, pleasant and consistent. That’s the high-value, patient-driven experience Carilion Clinic is striving to deliver. That’s our northern star. Our patients deserve nothing less.

Matt Gove 
Chief consumer officer of Piedmont Healthcare (Atlanta)

At Piedmont, we organize our consumerism work in three categories: access, choice and experience. Our first consumer-centric projects were around choice and transparency — in 2014, we became the second system in the country to post [quality] star ratings and reviews of our physicians on our website. From there, we developed the state of Georgia’s first consumer virtual visit app (Piedmont On Call), launched online scheduling and began to think about experience as every touch we have with a patient, whether in person or digital.

That led to the development of the Piedmont Way, our framework to deliver a differentiated consumer experience. The foundational initiative of the Piedmont Way is called seamless transitions. In it, we have expanded online scheduling to all employed primary care and specialty practices, and we are seeing more than 11 percent of our appointments booked online. Now, we are rolling this initiative out to our clinical network of independent practices to deliver superior quality and care coordination to our patients, while also meeting their expectations around consumer-centric experiences. If you can book travel, restaurants and even haircuts online, you should definitely be able to book something as personal as your healthcare online as well.

Michael LeBeau, MD
President of Sanford Health (Bismarck, N.D.)

We have worked hard to ensure same-day access in our primary care clinics. Additionally, we have established nontraditional access points to provide affordable options around the clock for nonurgent conditions. These offerings include e-visits through our patient portal, My Sanford Chart, and video visits with our providers. We continuously work to improve access and convenience in all areas of our health system.

David Lubarsky, MD
Vice chancellor of human health sciences and CEO of UC Davis Health (Sacramento, Calif.)

When you look at the disruption technology has brought to other industries, such as travel, finance and real estate, you see there are some common denominators.  Specifically, technology in these industries has enabled more analysis of data, empowered greater comparisons between products, simplified processes by removing steps and barriers, and made the consumer experience easier, faster and more convenient — at a lower price.  If we begin to look at healthcare delivery, we can see there is plenty of room for improvement in all of these areas, especially since healthcare has historically been one of the most change-resistant industries.  Therefore, we can and should expect the trends we’ve seen toward a rise in consumerism are only the beginning.  As leaders in healthcare, we must expect that consumers will demand easier, faster, more convenient and more efficient care delivery — and those who resist will not survive the changing marketplace. 

We must expect that even greater data analysis will drive both expectations and outcomes, and we should understand that our response should not be fear, but an embracing of treatment approaches like precision medicine, highly targeted therapies and customized treatments. What this will look like includes expansions in telemedicine, patients scheduling their own appointments, and a move toward care by exception, using technology to help define when care is needed — like the maintenance light on a car. All of this will be empowered by technology, data analysis and pressure from consumers who expect that getting, selecting and scheduling medical treatment will become as easy as making a restaurant reservation, checking a bank balance or booking a flight.

Warner Thomas
President and CEO of Ochsner Health System (New Orleans)

While Ochsner remains a patient-centered organization, the voice of the customer drives our efforts. We have moved beyond brick-and-mortar health centers to build a digital connection with our patients centered around convenience. We have adopted new technologies that use data to create population wellness and digital health management programs, predictive modeling through artificial intelligence and patient-centered solutions. We’ve made significant investments in online appointment scheduling, communicating via text message and our patient portal. Employing devices that patients already use every day has resulted in a 30 percent increase in online appointments.

As healthcare becomes more virtual, we continue to shift from reactive healthcare to proactively engage our patients around wellness and prevention through successful digital connection.

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