Healthcare CTO

Consumerism in Healthcare

Healthcare organizations in the U.S. do a very good job of addressing the clinical needs of their patients. Though there is always room for improvement, it cannot be denied that hospitals today have deep experience and commitment to the health and wellness of their patients and the communities they serve.

Over the past few years, changes to health plans have resulted in patients assuming more financial responsibility for their healthcare decisions, including where they are being treated. Patients and families are taking more financial responsibility for their care and, as a result, participating more in the decision of where and how their care will be delivered. This has changed the dynamic for the traditional hospital and healthcare system, requiring changes to the traditional ways of thinking and provision of services. As recently as five years ago, the biggest competition to a hospital’s patients and services was another hospital or large physician group. Hospitals are familiar with these competitive forces as they’ve been mainstays for many years. Hospital mergers and physician practice acquisitions have helped many organizations remain financially stable.

But the competitive landscape has changed over the past few years, and continues to change, as the competition for patients broadens to include non-traditional providers offering services that are more consumer-like than patient-like. Hospitals and Health Systems have begun to realize that, although they’ve begun to see the shift, they are not prepared to combat it effectively. Health Insurance providers, pharmacy chains, retail chains, and new organizations that are providing care and wellness options using subscription services are taking patient volume.

Healthcare systems are selecting job candidates from outside the Healthcare industry to fill existing and newly-created executive-level positions in order to introduce necessary change in the care-centric mindset. This includes developing strategies to re-design their current services and use their consumer-centric knowledge to re-envision the patient experience1. Several notable health systems have hired leaders from retail and other industries to fill existing roles, such as Chief Information Officer, and newly created roles, like Chief Experience Officer, Chief Strategy Officer, or Chief Innovation Officer.

While hospitals have a tremendous amount of data, it is rarely used for consumer research or analytics. There are several reasons for this, the most noteworthy of which is that few organizations have people with the skills and experience necessary to assess and creative strategies to create consumer demand. Bringing people into leadership roles with backgrounds outside of healthcare introduces a depth of experience and balance that hasn’t been seen before.

These new roles require the appropriate support from IT, and specifically the data custodians, to create the analytics and intelligence to use and aggregate insight from existing data sources. By using the current in-house data and external market data, along with a bit of risk-taking by adopting new methods of delivering care (in home, telemedicine, etc.), and providing meaningful response to customer feedback, hospitals may be able to avoid or minimize the fate that brick-and-mortar stores faced during the age of internet shopping. While some organizations are developing this consumer intelligence in house, many others are leveraging offerings from marketing professionals and external data managers. Retail and service delivery companies have used these methods for many years. Healthcare Marketing departments can make more effective utilization of the organization’s data as use of these tools expands.

Does your organization have a CXO? Have your IT initiatives been affected by this changing dynamic? The consumerization of healthcare is having a ripple effect on IT. No longer are IT Departments considered “back room” support departments. Most IT roles today have more direct contact with patients and family members, and certainly have a more dedicated focus on enhancing and improving patient experience. As such, customer service skills, business acumen and ability to discern actionable insights from existing data are becoming important traits for new hires to IT roles in Healthcare settings. 

1 “Former Walmart and Dell Tech Leader Joins Novant Health as CIO,” Forbes Insights, April 30, 2018, https://www.forbes.com/sites/peterhigh/2018/04/30/former-walmart-and-dell-tech-leader-joins-novant-health-as-cio/#5e7995ec239d

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