If you think about patients 10 or 20 years ago, you’d probably agree that healthcare delivery was based on the ‘doctor says/patient does’ model. But over the last decade, we’ve seen a dramatic shift away from this model towards a ‘working partnership’ model, or healthcare consumerism.
If you Google it, there are a few different ways to define healthcare consumerism depending on the context you’re using it in but, for this blog, we’re going to use Wikipedia’s definition that says: “Health consumerism is a movement that advocates patients’ involvement in their own healthcare decisions…”
You’ve probably already had reams of patients in your consulting rooms who’ve Googled their symptoms, asked for more information about prescribed medicines and/or have a wearable or smartwatch to track their metrics. These are examples of healthcare consumerism, but what does it mean for your practice?
Broadly speaking, healthcare consumerism means:
- Closer doctor-patient communication and cooperation
- Patient buy-in and compliance with treatment plans/recommendations
- Awareness around patient lifestyle and wellness
- Preventative care
From the list, you can see how healthcare consumerism relies on a working partnership between doctors and their patients. And while healthier patients is the overall goal, healthcare consumerism is also the catalyst for more efficient and cost-effective service delivery. So, how can your practice become more consumer-centric?
1. Offer convenience
Patients are already accustomed to the freedom to choose and for many, it’s an expectation. Offering patients the option to book their appointments online at their convenience is a powerful move towards consumer centricity. Another way you can offer convenience is to adjust your practice hours. Patients want the option of appointments outside of working hours, but this doesn’t mean you have to work 24/7. Consider extended or flexi hours one or two days a week or over the weekends to meet your patients’ needs. Alternatively, consider offering patients Telehealth consultations. That way, you and your patients can engage from wherever you or they may be.
2. Embrace your online reputation
Online reviews are a huge part of consumerism. You’ve probably checked reviews on takealot, Amazon or Hellopeter yourself before buying a product or service. Healthcare is no different. More than a third of patients search reviews before deciding which provider to book an appointment with. Embrace this norm and have a plan in place to actively manage your online reputation. Encourage recommendations and respond quickly (and appropriately) to negative reviews. Sites such as Recomed, Medpages and Google reviews are a good place to start monitoring your patient’s satisfaction and ultimately, your reputation.
3. Digitise your communications & interactions
Email, SMS, Whatsapp and other IM platforms have replaced the traditional phone call. Consumers readily opt for digital communications over physical post or untimely phone calls/voice mails. Make a point of asking your patients (on intake forms or in-person) what method of communications they prefer. Of course, there are instances when a phone call from their doctor is appropriate but what are some of the other ways you can stay in touch digitally. Here are just some patient communications you can digitise:
-Automated appointment reminders that can be sent by SMS
-Digital invoices that are emailed directly to the patient
-Digital pathology results that can be easily accessed and stored by the patient.
Incorporating digital communications as standard practice is a necessary step towards embracing healthcare consumerism.
4. Engage with patient-generated data
You’ll recall from the definition of healthcare consumerism that patients want to be involved in their own healthcare decisions. The popularity of wearables is some indication of how consumers want to know, understand and be more in control of their health.
Consider incorporating smartwatch data, for example, together with your electronic medical records (EMR) data to help guide patients towards making better lifestyle choices and developing healthy habits. Talk to your patients about the data they’re interested in tracking over time and work in partnership with them to realise better health.
Ready or not, healthcare consumerism is upon us. Acknowledge the power that technology-enabled consumers have to grow your business. And embrace ways to create a patient-centric experience that based on a solid doctor-patient relationship, high-quality healthcare and a patient-friendly administrative process.
If you want to find out more about how to become more consumer-centric at your practice, get in touch with Healthbridge. They’ve been helping doctors in private practice grow their businesses for 20 years, talk to them about how they can help you too. Click here for a call back.