Healthcare Consumerism: What Does It Really Look Like?

By Steve Jackson | Published 4/26/2018 1

Doctor & elderly patient with cane 849 x 565 px

Photo source: iStock Photo

With CVS’s acquisition of Aetna and the recent news that Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase have formed a new healthcare company and Apple will launch a network of medical clinics, there’s no denying that healthcare consumerism is poised to disrupt the industry like never before.

Today’s healthcare consumers are forced to deal with high-deductible plans, greater out-of-pocket costs, and new financial obligations. With more access to information, they also have more opportunities to research their options, evaluate their providers and decide where—and from whom—they want to receive care.

Yet healthcare consumers don’t expect customer service alone. They demand a personalized, transparent, and unrivaled experience.

While hospitals and healthcare systems agree that healthcare consumerism is a strategy to lower costs, provide greater access to care, and improve outcomes, the universal definition of healthcare consumerism—as well as what a comprehensive implementation strategy actually looks like—remains uncertain.


What is healthcare consumerism?

Although the idea of healthcare consumerism has been infiltrating the industry for about a decade, experts have yet to come to a consensus on the definition.

  • According to Modern Healthcare’s CEO Power Panel survey, CEOs define healthcare consumerism as a combination of:
  • Increased attention to customer satisfaction and feedback
  • Improved convenience
  • Greater quality transparency
  • Customer-centered design of facilities or technology offerings
  • Price transparency

“Consumerism is patient experience,” according to Kevin R. Gwin, Chief Patient Experience Officer at the University of Missouri Health Care. Gwin says healthcare systems need to recognize that like other industries, they are becoming more and more like retail businesses—so where one patient sees an expected practice or outcome, another may find fault.


Why healthcare consumerism is more important than ever before

Consumers today are demanding more control of their healthcare experience, including improved ease of access, increased value, and cost savings. They also want more control over their healthcare choices: in fact, seven in 10 say they feel personally responsible for managing their health.

Lack of loyalty is another reason why healthcare consumerism is more relevant now than ever before. One in three consumers is willing to find another, more affordable provider if they don’t feel valued by their current providers.

Related Content: How to Create Streamlined and Consumer-Friendly Healthcare

What does healthcare consumerism look like?

Healthcare consumerism is about more than evaluating the patient experience and responding. It’s about anticipating your consumers’ needs and desires and crafting an individualized, personalized experience for each individual with targeted insight.

Using real-time patient feedback and a simple measure of loyalty like the Net Promoter Score® (NPS®), healthcare systems can identify unsatisfied customers who threaten outmigration and turn them into loyalists.

What’s more, if costs drive loyalty – 56 percent of consumers say that a provider who accepts their insurance is top of mind—a consumerism strategy requires that consumers understand their financial obligations as well.


How to prepare for a healthcare consumerism strategy

Research shows that regardless of how important hospitals and healthcare systems think consumerism is, they’re not ready. So how can healthcare organizations prepare? Here are some first steps:

  • Take a 360-degree view

A healthcare consumerism strategy must first start at the board and executive levels and identify a single metric across all care settings and service lines to evaluate whether the organization is consumer-friendly. One of the best ways to begin to do so is to gain an understanding of the different drivers of loyalty.

  • Build a strong team

Traditional siloes that separate the customer journey into marketing ownership and experience ownership now stand in the way of true consumer-centric strategy. With a chief consumer officer (or a leader in a similar role) at the helm, an organization as a whole can make consumerism a priority at every touch point.

  • Look outside of healthcare

Perhaps one of the biggest obstacles to change is ensuring that every employee—from the front desk to the front lines—is committed to consumerism.

To understand why healthcare consumerism is important and what customers expect, simply look to companies in other industries that provide that “wow” factor.


Steve Jackson


Steve Jackson serves as President of NRC Health. He joined NRC in September 2014, bringing nearly 20 years of experience advising health systems in a variety of terrains including, patient experience, physician engagement, and patient access.
As President, Steve oversees company strategy and NRC’s portfolio of solutions that bring human understanding to healthcare. Today, NRC enables more than 75% of the Top 200 U.S. health systems to better understand the people they care for and design experiences that inspire loyalty. Prior to joining NRC, he held roles of increasing responsibility at Vocera Communications, The Advisory Board Company, Neoforma, and Stockamp & Associates. Steve graduated with honors from the University of California, Davis. Outside of the office, he serves as his family’s chief transportation officer, short order cook, and food and wine critic.


  • Lower pricing and competing on price and quality. Consumerism is not framed by healthcare companies….it’s defined by consumers.

    We will see this shift…esp as economy pulls back more in future.

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