A few years ago, I spent a week in the hospital after having surgery. As I recovered, the days fell into a predictable routine:
- Wake up, find the phone and flimsy, stained menu.
- Call the number. Wait on hold. Give my order for breakfast.
- Wait an hour and a half for it to be delivered.
- Switch on the TV while I wait. (Ugh, basic cable. Why can’t I fast forward through the commercials?)
- Wish my doctor would stop by. (I have questions!)
And underlying all of this, a growing anxiety: “What is this going to cost? Sure, I have insurance, but what’s my deductible? What about co-insurance?”
If it feels like you’re paying more out of pocket for healthcare than ever before, it’s not your imagination. Deductibles alone have risen 67 percent since 2010, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
This probably won’t change anytime soon. Because… well, for one, there’s that pesky issue of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). What is going to happen to it? No one knows for sure, but most agree there will be changes to at least some parts of the law.
Likely, the direction of any new regulation will be toward even greater patient responsibility. Perhaps there will be increased use of HSAs. Employers may be relieved of some of their responsibility. There could be increased competition among health facilities and health plans. Cost transparency might increase.
The bottom line? Healthcare consumerism just got a turbo boost.
If we as patients are paying more and taking more initiative, that means we expect more. We have choices (in most areas, at least). And we have a platform (social media) for airing our praises and grievances.
What does this mean for healthcare organizations?
It means you need to differentiate. You must give patients a reason (or two) to choose your facility and doctors above the competition. And a great place to start is by focusing on your technology.
Here are some suggestions:
- Ensure secure internet access is available throughout the building, and that patients can bring and use their own devices. Today, this is no longer a nice-to-have – it’s table stakes.
- Help make the treatment experience more comfortable. There’s a lot of waiting around in the care experience. But what if you had a platform like Cisco Patient Connect? It offers features like patient entertainment, education, and provider interaction – all in one place. As a patient, how great would it be to order your meals digitally? Watch movies without interruption? Even better, get a quick answer to a question about your condition?
- Give patients more control over their care. For instance, offer appointment scheduling online. One portal for viewing health data. The ability to digitally report metrics tracked at home. If that sounds appealling, you’ll want to check out Cisco and UCSF’s Connected Health Interoperability Platform.
And those are just a few examples.
As we roll into 2017, the patient is rising as the hero of the story. So let’s give patients the attention they deserve. Even if you’re not worried about competition, there’s another compelling reason to focus on the patient: better treatment outcomes. Engaged patients take their medications. They make lifestyle changes. They’re proactive about their health.
I know that as a patient, it would make a difference for me.