I'm not sure I recognise you.... #medifinanceblog #patient #consumer #healthcareopinions

Patient or Consumer?

People today are like chameleons - ever changing, highly demanding and always switched on. But when it comes to healthcare, how is the industry and its professionals adapting to this new target market, where the traditional concept of a "patient" is moving towards a new type of healthcare "consumer"?

One of the biggest challenges Healthcare Professionals are facing is the blurred line between a "patient" and a "consumer" and having to deal with both at the same time. Once upon a time, if someone needed healthcare advice and treatment, they sought out a professional. From a patients' perspective, you were the expert and they trusted your diagnosis, accepted they were getting the treatment needed, paid however much it cost and went along with your way of doing things without question. But the rules of engagement have changed, as has the game you thought you were playing.

Health is no longer contained within the walls of a medical, dental or veterinary practice. Patients now have access to more medical information than ever before, enabling them to self-diagnose and "shop around" for providers and treatment options. They demand value for money, multiple options and transparent pricing showing the breakdown of cost for services - prior to treatment.

This new breed of "patient" is starting to behave more like a true "consumer" - seeking more information, taking greater responsibility for their health, and shopping around for health goods and services. They also feel somewhat qualified in healthcare as it's now incorporated into their daily life through their step tracking devices and health and wellness apps. This attitude, coupled with being 24/7 connected through a multitude of channels, means they expect to be able to find and get what they need immediately, and they are often much less loyal.

This means that the industry needs to start doing things differently. These healthcare consumers want personalisation, greater use of technology and for the industry to catch up with new ways of working. They don't want one way to pay a bill, another to schedule an appointment and another to message their care provider — they want a single, integrated experience, at a time that suits them. They want to be treated as individuals, not transactions, much the same way they are accustomed to in their daily interactions with retailers. And they want all of this NOW. It's no good just hoping you can carry on as normal and still see your profits grow. Time's up for running your business as you have always done, as this new healthcare consumer just won't tolerate it. It's time to up your game. 

As social networking, online resources, and advanced technologies change the consumer and business landscape, healthcare professionals should consider incorporating technology into their business in a way that will potentially enable them to differentiate themselves — just as savvy retailers have. From client portals, payment systems, through to better CRM systems and modern marketing strategies. Technology is limitless in its' opportunities to make a business thrive, but it needs to be seen as an opportunity rather than just an expense that comes bottom of the expenditure list. Healthcare professionals need to change their viewpoint that investing in technology is a nice to have, someday cost, and think of it more as a way to increase customer satisfaction, attract new customers and work smarter inside the business.

The tools to do this, exist and go beyond where we are today. The challenge lies with how healthcare professionals can proactively manage the evolution of the modern healthcare patient into the healthcare consumer.

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Sunday, 26 September 2021

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