Sg2 Strategic Countdown: Engaging the New Health Care Consumer

Providers face a wave of consumerism that is radically reshaping industry purchasing patterns. Historically, individuals have functioned as passive participants in their health care. That is changing due to new benefit designs, public and private exchanges, generational preference, and tools that have democratized information and increased transparency. These trends are shifting health care’s balance of power, spurring “retailization” and challenging provider systems to meet consumers on their own terms.

Sg2 recommends the following strategies to attract and activate health care consumers and effectively execute a consumer-centric approach:

  1. Reassess branding to reshape shoppers’ perceptions. Consumerism challenges providers to raise awareness about their services among a much broader base of individuals than ever before, not just those currently seeking care. Moving from an illness to a wellness focus, promoting a comprehensive solution, and understanding the importance of follow-through to instill, protect and calibrate your brand are all key.
  2. Rebalance contracting strategy. Successful contracting will maximize consumers’ access to the organization through their coverage choices, whether via an employer-sponsored plan, public health exchange or individual policy. To do so, organizations are considering options ranging from direct contracting with major employers to cutting out the middleman entirely with system-sponsored health plans.
  3. Round out targeting strategy. Health care consumers are defined by a welter of complicated variables, such as life stage, family structure, medical conditions, health literacy, sociocultural characteristics, income and more. Attracting health care consumers requires a better understanding of this complexity and precise targeting of outreach efforts and services. Progressive systems are using diverse data sets that include demographics, lifestyle segmentation, insurance coverage, clinical data and network analytics to gain a comprehensive market view. They are then targeting their strategy against the consumer categories that emerge.
  4. Optimize digital strategy for outreach, ongoing connectivity. The digital age brings powerful forums to improve consumer research, outreach and loyalty by provider systems. Leading organizations are harnessing diverse data to attract prospects and enhance loyalty, including use of online topic-specific focus groups, optimized email newsletters and customized Google search ads.
  5. Position for performance transparency. Health care’s answer to Orbitz is taking off slowly but surely. Convenient care clinics, public and private payers, and a new breed of independent firms buoyed by venture capital are beginning to post prices and other information to guide consumer shopping. Instead of continuing to let outsiders define their products’ value for them, some providers are exploring proactive, internal solutions, such as mobile apps and centralized pricing functions with dedicated teams to calculate out-of-pocket costs, and posting scorecards showcasing performance results vs local competitors.
  6. Deploy new, extend existing products to hook consumers upstream. The end-to-end offering in a retail-oriented industry commences significantly upstream from where it historically began. An expanded view of products and channels is essential to maintain relevance and activate consumers earlier. Health systems are accomplishing this by adding a host of wellness-oriented offerings to their programming to build relationships with individuals before they become patients. Consider offerings such as wellness profiles, life coaching, employer health programs and fitness centers to engage healthy consumers.
  7. Ensure convenience for consumers when their needs escalate. Until performance transparency fully takes hold, access likely will still reign as the prime competitive differentiator in many markets. Serving patients where they are, when they want care is imperative for success in any retail marketplace. This begins with stellar channel strategy that includes diverse ambulatory sites and a consumer focus. Expedited, system-wide triage, ongoing connectivity and proactive outreach are essential to increase consumer satisfaction and enable self-management of conditions.
  8. Transform the patient experience. A recent survey shows that customer experience is slipping in health care. The sector dropped behind the automotive industry in customer satisfaction, to rank 6th out of 8 major service industries. Better execution ultimately comes down to an organization’s ability to rally every individual in the organization behind a stronger consumer-centric mission. Advanced organizations have created an enterprise-level position, the chief experience officer, who clearly positions experience as an organizational priority. Other systems are redesigning care to mirror patient need, integrating patient-centered design into their approaches. 
  9. Monitor success with a fresh set of metrics. Determining market relevance and refining product positioning to enhance it requires metrics tuned to the voice of the emerging consumer. How do consumers interface with the network? What services do they use, at what access points? Novel growth and performance metrics, such as Share of Care, network leakage and unique patient counts, should be considered to measure success.
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