Most Health Systems are Unprepared for Consumerism, Survey Finds

Nov. 7, 2016
The majority of healthcare delivery organization executives see consumerism as a priority, but there is a significant gap between the priority placed on consumerism and organizations’ ability to apply consumer insights to healthcare service design, according to a recent survey.

The majority of healthcare delivery organization executives see consumerism as a priority, but there is a significant gap between the priority placed on consumerism and organizations’ ability to apply consumer insights to healthcare service design, according to a recent survey.

The survey from advisory firm Kaufman Hall and consulting firm Cadent Consulting Group, the State of Consumerism in Healthcare, indicates that hospitals and health systems are largely unequipped to understand and meet consumers’ changing expectations, despite the central role consumers play in healthcare today. The survey gathered responses from more than 100 executives at U.S. hospitals and health systems.

 “Enabled by the internet, navigating high deductibles, managing busy lives, and focusing on staying healthy, consumers are shopping for new levels of access, convenience, and price. At the same time, the emergence of value-based payment links health system revenue to the ability to maintain consumer loyalty and to engage patients in health improvement,” the report authors wrote.

The study findings indicate that consumerism is a priority, but not yet a capability for many healthcare organizations. Of the respondents, 66 percent say consumerism is an above-average priority, yet only 23 percent reported to have the capability to develop consumer insights and only 16 percent have the capability to activate strategies based on insights.

And, the survey findings indicate that gap exists in each of four critical elements of consumerism—patient experience, use of consumer insights, patient access and strategic pricing. For example, 79 percent of respondents said there is a pressing need to understand and enhance patient experience, but only 18 percent have employed advanced means to do so. Additionally, 68 percent of respondents said strategic consumer insights are a high priority but only 16 percent ranked themselves as having advanced capabilities in that area.

Further, only 29 percent of respondents consider strategic pricing a high priority, and only nine percent have advanced pricing strategies in place.

“Although patient experience is important to the value proposition of hospitals and health systems, improvement actions are in their early stages. For example, only 35 percent have begun working on more advanced end-to-end patient experience assessment and design, and only 35 percent offer virtual visits,” the report authors wrote.

Among responding organizations, 15 percent are taking many or most of the consumer-oriented actions designated as advanced, and 28 percent are taking some advanced actions. More than half are taking few of these advanced actions.

The survey report identified three stages of organizational progress toward consumer orientation:

10 percent of healthcare organizations are “emerging leaders”— Consumerism is a high priority with a number of advanced capabilities in place but there is a long way to go compared other industries.

70 percent of healthcare organizations are “worried well”—Consumerism is an above-average priority, but few advanced capabilities are in place, and actions aren’t always integrated with organizational strategy.

20 percent of healthcare organizations are “waiting”—Consumerism is not yet an above-average priority; few if any advanced capabilities are in place.

Although findings show that the majority of organizations are at the beginning stages of developing insights about consumers, organizations report that they are applying what information they have in a broad range of areas. Marketing (93 percent) and strategic planning (84 percent) are the most commonly cited areas, but a significant percentage of respondents also indicated use in planning for facilities, products, and services; site selection; investment; and pricing.

Common barriers offered by respondents include resistance to change, lack of urgency, competing priorities, and data challenges. Responses from executives who participated in the survey indicate that there are taking steps to overcome these barriers. For example, with regard to lack of data and analytics, one executive said, “We could benefit from a more robust, fact-based analytical approach and let the data and analysis drive more of our decisions.”

According to the report authors, action is required in four key areas—organizational alignment, content, capability and data/IT. In the area of data and analytics, the report authors suggest that organizations audit current data (where it resides and who “owns it), create data and analytics infrastructure, establish dashboards, performance metrics and tracking.

Organizations will need a systematic road map for success, the report authors contend, and some of the key steps to developing that road map include determining the most important consumer-centric goals and priorities to address; developing the path to realize the priorities; understanding market activation and risks and developing a road map to develop capabilities for consumerism.

“Emerging leaders recognize that in today’s healthcare environment, consumerism it is not a program or a problem to be solved, but a key to growth,” Paul Crnkovich, managing director, at Kaufman Hall, said in a statement. “Typically, successful organizations start with a high-impact focus area while laying the foundation for broader consumer-centric capabilities.”

“Our findings show that healthcare executives recognize the many operational areas that require consumer insights, from strategic planning to site selection,” Ken Harris, managing partner, Cadent Consulting Group, said. “The next step is for organizations to establish clear strategic and business-unit goals that ensure consumer-centric insights are developed and applied across the enterprise.”

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