Health consumers choose pricing and convenience over provider-patient relationship
Technology has revolutionized the way we consume. Before buying anything, we can search multiple vendors to ensure we get the best possible price. We can try things on virtually using digital tools. Before going to a restaurant or choosing a movie, we can filter through reviews to make sure it’s good — most often by using the computers we keep in our pockets.
Health consumers are now expecting the same conveniences and transparency from their care providers, according to a recent Geonetric report. Now more than ever patients are treating healthcare like they would any other business — they shop for the cheapest and most accessible healthcare experiences even if it means changing providers.
Most healthcare organizations had “[business] strategies that were based on the premise that a consumer will likely stick with one healthcare organization for all of their care barring some major event in their life like moving away,” said Ben Dillon, chief strategy officer for Geonetric.
“The way we’ve worked in the past just isn’t going to cut it.”
Some of the change was inevitable and predictable – patients will often change to a provider that will better match their medical needs after receiving a new diagnosis or experiencing changes in their health condition.
“But we saw an equally large group of patients who said, ‘I’m unimpressed with the experience I’m having here,” said Dillon. “They were saying, ‘Nothing here is strong enough for me to value this over other factors like needing something better — better service, better options — it’s time to try something new.'”
Patients rank pricing third when seeking care
When choosing a new provider, patients prioritized providers that had appointment availability and accepted their insurance. Next came pricing and cost transparency, which surprised Dillion.
“We haven’t seen a lot of price sensitivity from health consumers in the past, but we’re certainly seeing in this data that it’s a pretty major factor.”
Price transparency is notoriously one of the most difficult things to provide in healthcare since there are so many different factors that influence insurance coverage. Even with the No Surprises Act, it’s often unclear to patients what exactly will be applied to their deductible, what lab test is considered “preventable” or not, and what their final bill will be.
“Our ability to communicate up front what the cost will look like when someone needs care has been pretty problematic and so we’re really not delivering well on that key element,” Dillon continued.
Patients rank convenience over patient-provider relationship
After pricing, patients valued convenience when seeking new care.
“People are willing to pick convenient hours or convenient locations or the ability to know up front what the costs are over this is ‘my doctor’ and I think that’s a big shift from what we’ve seen with a lot of consumers traditionally.”
Tech’s entrance into healthcare has “complicated things” and not made it easy for traditional healthcare organizations to offer competitive prices.
One Medical and Amazon are scooping up patients who want something easy, cheap, and effective – with no waiting lists, waiting time, or even waiting room – all for a cash price that circumvents insurance and is far below competition.
And in pharmacy, companies like Cost Plus Drugs and AmazonRx are offering conveniences that simply aren’t standard in pharmacies today – things like two-day delivery, and 24/7 availability and price transparency.
The solution? Digital tools.
“Consumers’ engagement with the digital world has set a bar,” Dillon states, “and right now, we’re falling short.”
What makes our digital world so attractive, he claims, is “intense transparency,” that’s what health consumers crave.
“Earlier this week, I ordered pizza for the family. Then I could look at that website and could see if the pizza had been made yet, if the pizza was in the oven, if the pizza was in the box,” Dillon says, “and then I could follow that driver live in real time as they drove to my house.”
“So if I go to the doctor and have to wait an hour or an hour and a half because they’re backed up and had no capacity to tell me that I might as well have stayed home before I got there, that is a huge miss of expectations and we need to close that gap in a lot of different ways.”