Consumerism Meets Healthcare – By: Mary Ellen Pratt, FACHE, CEO
In the 1950’s, a woman’s primary roles were being a wife, mother and homemaker. Children went to school and came home to help with essential chores. Physicians, which were usually a well-known few in the community, held many hats as baby-delivers, caregivers and coroners. Through great care, patients formed unbreakable, lifetime bonds with their doctors. A wait time, as we know it, didn’t exist because seeing the doctor was episodic—only happening when a patient was ill or in need of emergency care.
Today, most households have two working parents and rather than “farm work” after school, children often opt to be involved in countless activities. Physicians specialize and there are more medical facilities offering more services. We’ve learned the importance of ongoing medical visits for “wellness” (before we get sick) can result in saved time, money and problems.
We have less time, more choices and new needs. Thus, leading to the “consumerist era” of healthcare. Below are several interesting takeaways from NRC’s 2019 Healthcare Consumer Trends Report.
Convenience is king.
What matters most to patients might surprise you. Based on NRC’s Market Insights Survey, when rating healthcare factors that were most likely to influence their decisions, patients felt that “convenience” was even more influential than “insurance coverage.” People are willing to pay for convenience.
- # 1 Convenient, easy access
- #2 Insurance coverage
- #3 Doctor/nurse conduct
- #4 Brand Reputation
- #5 Quality of Care
Excellent care is not enough.
Public reporting of consumer perceptions of hospitals show that the national average scores for “would recommend” have reached an all-time high; however, hospital volumes are not increasing and in some cases, significantly declining. Excellent care is not enough. Patients want “care that conforms to their elevated expectations—care delivered with more ease, convenience and choice” (NRC 2019 Healthcare Consumer Trends).
We are more willing to break-up with our physicians.
NRC health reports that 80% of surveyed patients (with a combined one million+ responses) were willing to switch providers for “convenience factors” alone. Unlike in the old days, patients have a choice and a larger pool of providers to choose from. And, it’s not just about the physician. Wait times are the most frequently complained about aspect of healthcare. In addition, the attitude of support staff—especially in relation to billing and insurance—plays a large role in patient perception.
Consumerism challenges healthcare leaders.
This new era of consumerism in healthcare challenges leaders to think outside of the box and constantly evolve as patients make clear that in addition to quality and cost-effectiveness, they now value convenience, transparency and ease—often most of all. As we plan the next phase of our hospital, clinic and ER expansion, we want you to know we are working to both design and staff based on what makes our services more convenient for you.
In regard to transparency, St. James Parish proudly offers a team of financial services staff who can help you get a personal estimate before opting for a service. In addition, we happily participate in the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare’s publicly reported patient perception and quality surveys.
To create ease, we’ve began welcoming physicians and specialists to our hospital family offering them the administrative support needed for them to have more time to focus on you. Most recently, we’ve hired Care Coordinators to form ongoing relationships with our Medicare Patients giving these patients access to a wellness support system that is conveniently one call away. We offer free, secure online portals for both our hospital and clinics that allow patients to have 24/7 access to certain medical information and request appointments and refills from physicians. In addition, we can often offer same-day appointments and schedule diagnostic tests much more quickly than most competitors—and closer-to-home.
In closing, as CEO, I believe that when it comes to making service easier for you, the relationships at St. James Parish Hospital are what makes us special. Our team is interconnected, willing to help each other and happy to do whatever it takes to help our patients. It is not uncommon for me to hear stories of physicians, clinicians and business staff pulling together on short notice to make sure that a patient in need was taken care of compassionately and conveniently—sometimes even hours after they called.
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