Study: Healthcare isn't as consumer centric as it wants to be

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“Patient centric” is a phrase on seemingly every healthcare executive's lips, but it's more of a dream than a reality, according to new research.


A study from marketing consultancy Prophet found most healthcare organizations are lagging on the consumer-centric trend. What's more, some are even resistant to take the steps needed to become more consumer-focused.


“It's not as surprising if you think about the instincts of the business of healthcare,” said Scott Davis, chief growth officer at Prophet. “This is an evidence-based, scientific-by-nature, risk-averse, highly regulated, and monitored business. When you think about making big bets around consumers in these industries, moves are not easily made.”

Prophet identified five shifts the healthcare industry needs to make, including moving to connected healthcare ecosystems and person-centered, instead of population-centered, care. The research found fewer than 15% of healthcare organizations have made full progress on any of these shifts.


Because the industry is so complex, Davis suggested healthcare companies “don't try to eat the entire apple” at once. The study broke out the five shifts to guide healthcare organizations along the path to becoming consumer centric.


The study surveyed leaders from more than 200 healthcare organizations across payers, providers, and pharma, including major players such as Mayo Clinic, Novartis, and Aetna.


Companies such as Amazon making moves into healthcare is part of the reason healthcare needs to be more consumer centric. Patients are beginning to expect more from their health providers because of excellent customer service at large companies.


“It's happening because consumers are increasingly comparing their experience to out-of-category companies, especially to Amazon, Uber, et cetera,” said Jeff Gourdji, healthcare practice lead at Prophet.


The study suggested that healthcare companies partner with digital startups to bring a nimbler, more consumer-friendly culture into their ranks. Across the three sectors of healthcare, however, only between 5% and 10% were willing to partner with startups.


Another potential solution to speed up the shift to consumerism is hiring leaders from outside of the industry. However, many healthcare organizations were once again resistant. Only 19% of pharma and payers and 11% of providers were willing to hire a leader from a consumer industry.


Despite the study finding progress coming slowly Davis and Gourdji found reasons for optimism. More healthcare leaders are buying into the consumer-focused world and trying to change their companies from the top, healthcare organizations are creating roles like “chief experience officer,” and political tides are pushing healthcare toward a value-based system.


“The bar is so low in this category that incremental improvement will be seen as transformative to consumers,” Davis said. “A little bit of the consumerism that you see in retail, and consumers will say, ‘I didn't expect that.' A little bit goes a long way and, in five to seven years, if you're not on the train, it's going to pass you by.”


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