The days of neighborhood doctors you stick with for a lifetime are declining. We are entering an era of pick-and-choose physicians where the customers can analyze their available options and weigh differences to make a decision. Are their outcomes good? Have previous patients been satisfied with the level of care? Is the price right?
Advances in medicine have allowed us to tackle diseases and increase life expectancies enormously. But just as Dr. Arthur Barkley found back in 1988, “although the collective health of the nation has improved dramatically… surveys reveal declining satisfaction with personal health.” And similar trends exist today, 30 years later. This is more relevant to Healthcare now than ever before as uninvolved patients shift to active consumers.
The gap between healthcare and retail markets grows ever smaller. Dr. Barkley suggested, even in the late 80s, that it is the commercialization of healthcare that is leading this shift and causing a “climate of apprehension, insecurity and alarm about disease.” As patients increasingly play a consumer role in healthcare, it becomes increasingly important that physician leaders apply traditional business insights to their patient relationships. Emotive branding, targeted marketing and strategic communication will need to be used to gain the attention and trust of the consumer patient.
Clearly this idea isn’t new, and has been a long time coming. But it is now progressing to a point that can no longer be ignored. We are reaching a breaking point. With cost of care on the rise, patients are now players in the medical financial game and, with new metric-driven technology, can actively seek out the best bang for their buck.
With the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Service (CMS) pushing for an increase in data collection as part of their Meaningful Use program, we will begin to see more transparency into outcomes and provider effectiveness. Patients, now inundated with choice, can and will use this information to make decisions about which centers of care or providers best fit with their needs.
This need for lower prices has driven the rise of alternate payment models, pushing care and recovery to the home, and the need for patient engagement. Healthcare organizations must adapt and restructure to fit this new medical landscape in a way that will benefit both patient and provider.
Capitalism has been at work within the healthcare system but has really only lead to inflated costs. Health care is expensive. Employers can’t afford it anymore, and neither can patients. Instead we must put a commercialized system to work in a way that will benefit the consumer patient. The time for reducing costs must be now.