Medical Trends: Consumerism

It may seem as though healthcare has always been centered around the patient experience - after all, what purpose does healthcare serve without patients? But, while this might seem like the case, it has not been the reality of healthcare until only recently. Patients have to constantly advocate for themselves in order to get the care and treatment they need, which is not easy. 

Fortunately, today a growing number of healthcare practices are realizing the importance of promoting a positive patient experience. As a result, the growth of consumerism in healthcare is drastically accelerating, providing patients with the devotion and care they have deserved all along. As consumerism continues to be a focus in healthcare, it is crucial that all practices jump on the bandwagon and embrace new patient-centered trends

What is Healthcare Consumerism? 


Healthcare consumerism is the recognition of the role that patients play in the healthcare system and signifies the shift to value-based care in the healthcare industry. It can be easy to forget that patients are not only patients but also consumers. But, rather than viewing patients as merely a patient, or a consumer, providers should be viewing them as purchasers and managers of their own health. 

Each and every patient has the sole responsibility and personal choice in paying for and managing their own health. Just as the purchasing manager of a company needs to be convinced of a product before purchasing it, patients must decide to accept service from their healthcare provider - and they can take their business elsewhere if unsatisfied. 

A significant reason for the surge in healthcare consumerism is the growing responsibility that patients have to finance their own healthcare. As high-deductible health plans became commonplace, more and more patients became the primary payer of their healthcare. As a result, patients began having more of a reason to demand improved care and were likely to switch providers if they did not receive it. Today, healthcare providers have come to this realization and are looking to improve the patient experience that they offer. 


COVID-19’s Impact on Consumerism


In addition to growing medical expenses and financial responsibility of patients, the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant influence on healthcare consumerism. One of the largest contributors to the trend was patient deferment rates, which is patients delaying healthcare services. In early 2020, prior to the pandemic, the average patient deferment rate was 22.4%, which was nearly a five-year-low. However, once the pandemic struck, deferment rates skyrocketed to 30.4%, and 40% of patients who deferred care reported that it was due to COVID-19. 

Delaying care can be detrimental to healthcare practices, significantly threatening their revenues, but even worse, it can have severe consequences for patients should they defer their healthcare for too long. This is particularly concerning for patients 75 and older, which account for nearly 68% of patient deferments. 

These deferment rates introduced a serious challenge for healthcare providers - how do we recruit our patients back into regular care - especially during a global pandemic? One of the solutions that many practices had was to embrace healthcare consumerism, contributing to the trend’s surge of popularity. 


How Providers Can Embrace Consumerism


It’s simple to say that healthcare providers are adopting a more value-based approach to patient care, but how exactly is this being done? Essentially, healthcare providers needed to address two issues: improving the quality of patient care and getting patients back into regular care. Fortunately, providers can address both of these challenges with one simple solution, telehealth. 

Telehealth services offer patients remote healthcare, enabling a more convenient and accessible healthcare system than ever before. With a telehealth platform, patients no longer need to report to their provider’s office for routine check-ups and appointments. For patients seeking routine care, especially elderly patients or those with chronic care, this is essential. Patients can get the care they need without having to commute to the doctor’s office. 

This is particularly instrumental today as many patients are still concerned about exposure to COVID-19. Many patients were hesitant to attend their doctor’s appointments in fear of exposure, whether or not they were immunocompromised. Fortunately, this is no longer a concern with telehealth solutions available. 

With telehealth solutions, providers can conduct appointments with their patients via video conference, providing the same face-to-face service as before, without the risk of exposure or the hassle of an in-person meeting. Furthermore, telehealth solutions offer asynchronous resources, meaning that patients can communicate with their providers and access health records even outside of their appointment. 

By adopting telehealth, patients have access to the care they need at any time and from any location. As a result, patients are significantly less likely to defer their healthcare, ensuring that their health is continuously managed and their providers maintain their revenue stream.

In terms of consumerism, telehealth solutions are also instrumental in improving the patient experience as a whole. Not only do patients benefit from the convenience of their healthcare platform - able to access care from their phones, but healthcare also becomes more efficient and accurate. 

From a provider’s perspective, telehealth enables quicker, more efficient, and more accurate diagnoses and patient visits. Healthcare records are easy to store and review, there are fewer waits and cancellations, and second opinions are quick to obtain. As such, providers have more time to devote to caring for their patients and ensuring that they receive the care they need. 

Even better, patients can easily receive a diagnosis, find a specialist, and obtain a prescription faster than ever. Through telehealth solutions, providers can work more efficiently, optimizing the care they give to patients, thus drastically improving the patient experience. 

Telehealth Drives Consumerism


There is no question that telehealth is revolutionizing the healthcare industry and pulling consumerism along with it. Since 2018, telehealth usage has nearly tripled, demonstrating just how many practices recognize the value of adopting such a tool. 

Independent of the pandemic, telehealth solutions are excellent in cultivating a convenient and accessible healthcare experience for both patients and providers. But, especially within the pandemic, telehealth is instrumental in ensuring that patients have safe access to healthcare and hospitals can operate within social-distancing protocols and high-risk working environments. 

In the past, healthcare was struggling with a severely unbalanced power dynamic between providers and patients. Today, thanks to developments in telehealth and consumerism, the power has returned to the hands of patients. 

As a patient, your health should be your priority, and so it is crucial to advocate for yourself and the quality of your healthcare. As a provider, it is vital that you prioritize your patient’s care just as you do your own. For this reason, embracing consumerism through telehealth solutions is the key to optimizing patient care and ensuring the longevity of your practice. 


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About the author - Mircea Popa

Mircea Popa is the CEO and co-founder of Medicai. Mircea previously founded SkinVision, a mobile app designed to detect melanoma (skin cancer) through ML algorithms applied on images taken with smartphones. He believes that a multidisciplinary approach to medicine is possible only when everyone has access to a better way to store, transmit and collaborate on medical data.