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Consumerism in Healthcare:
The Trends that Can't be Ignored

Embracing consumerism in healthcare has become a key driver to success; the demands and purchasing power of consumers today are higher than ever. In healthcare, traditional values such as clinical quality, expertise, and safety continue to be an expectation  – yet consumers are increasingly also demanding factors traditionally more common in retail – such as price transparency, convenience, digital tools, and empowerment.

Consumer expectations are extending from their everyday retail experiences into the complexities of healthcare.

In fact, the era of consumerism is changing every industry. Consider how traditional retail and direct to consumer brands are transforming their business models to better meet the demands of today’s consumers – particularly as disruptors are gaining traction in nearly every industry. Companies such as Netflix, Impossible plant-based burgers, Airbnb, Uber are just a few well-known examples of innovators making a difference in their respective industry.

Healthcare is no different. Consumers are feeling the pain of healthcare costs, access and efficiency – and as a result are already embracing industry disruptors that are solving their problems.

  • Technology-based tools such as healthcare apps or wearable monitoring devices are giving consumers power to track their health.
  • Retail-based walk-in clinics such as Walgreens or CVS are convenient and easy to access.
  • Numerous digital health startups are enabling cost-efficient, real-time healthcare coordination and remote medical support, with especially promising results for managing chronic conditions.
  • Apps such as GoodRX are empowering consumers to compare prescription prices and access coupons on demand.
  • Retail giants such Amazon are exploring how to bring their delivery networks, digital tools, and powerful analytics into the healthcare field.

To maintain a competitive advantage, healthcare leaders must be on the front lines of making changes necessitated by current consumerism trends. 

Gladly’s 2019 report of over 1,5000 American adults highlights the following industry-agnostic trends that necessitate change:

  1. The experience should be seamless across channels and services.
    • Consumers don’t want to repeatedly explain their history
    • They want it to be easy to find someone who can solve their problem
    • They shouldn’t have to remember details like account numbers or dates – this should be available in their records and easily accessible

Applications in healthcare: Patients expect providers to know why they are coming for a visit and what history they have previously provided. Filling out the same paperwork at every visit, or seeing a doctor who doesn’t know why they are there are detractors to the experience. When a problem or question arises, they expect to find someone who can help – and this applies beyond clinical needs to activities such as scheduling, way-finding, and billing.

As illustrated below, healthcare leaders much consider the omnichannel experience to set up the right kind of communications to provide a seamless continuum of care.


2. Care must be personal and individualized.

  • Consumers want to feel their experience is personal – they are not simply a number or a case
  • They expect that their history is known and taken into account over their lifespan as a customer
  • When interacting with digital tools or automated services, they want the communication to feel authentic rather than robotic
  • Rich, personal interactions continue to be important

Applications in healthcare: Patients want to build a connection with a healthcare provider that they believe understands, listens, and tailors treatment to their needs. Through research with thousands of patients across the country, we have found common pain points related to patients feeling that visits are too rushed, providers don’t remember them, and they are not listened to or understood; these are some of the most-mentioned reasons that patients switch providers. Conversely, loyalty and advocacy increase when patients perceive their experience as personal and individualized.

There are best practices for provider verbal and nonverbal listening skills to help patients feel listened to during their visit. However, digital tools are also necessary to make the experience personal across visits. One example is a robust CRM system that connects to the EMR to provide a holistic view of patient needs and preferences (see below for more details on this).

3. If they have a poor experience, they don’t hesitate to leave – and share it with others.

  • Today’s consumers have many choices and an easy ability to conduct research using social networking groups, reviews, and ratings
  • They don’t hesitate to switch until they are satisfied – but once they have good experience elsewhere, it’s hard to get them back
  • Whether positive or negative, they like to share their stories both to their immediate personal networks and online

Applications in healthcare: It’s not uncommon for patients to describe seeing several physicians before finding one that is a good fit. This is attributed to both quality of their interactions and ease of access/scheduling an appointment when they need it. Furthermore, for health needs they perceive as routine or not complex, independent clinics are often preferred for providing an easier, more personalized experience.

If patients have a less-than-ideal experience, they don’t hesitate to share it on social media. Thus, social monitoring and engagement is important for today’s hospitals to identify areas for improvement and provide opportunities for service recovery.

Based on these trends, here are some tools and strategies healthcare leaders can use to stay ahead of the consumerism curve.

  • Invest in data and analytics. Although themes among consumerism are evident, each market is different. What do your target segments value the most? What are their pain points?What drives their decision making?  Learn more how to use data to develop customer insights. 
  • Prioritize the patient experience. This starts with internal empathy development, and a deep understanding of functional and emotional customer needs. Learn more about how to capture the voice of the customer.
  • Use digital tools to facilitate care coordination across touchpoints. For example, EMR does not easily meet needs related to managing patient relationships, and CRM can fill in the gap. When a CRM and EMR work together, providers are given a more holistic view of the patient’s needs and preferences. Ideally, data from multiple sources is pulled together to display information such as clinical data, demographics, and psycho-graphics.  This is especially helpful for long-term care management, noting changes over time, contextual lifestyle needs, and even “extras” such as favorite vacation spots or sports teams.
  • Align internal stakeholders around improvements and problem-solving. As illustrated below, three workstreams that we find useful for organizing improvements are care, coordination and communication. These workstreams can be incorporated into planning and experience workshops, bringing together teams to share best practices, ideas for improvements, and think outside of the box about how to address the changing demands of today’s consumers.



Destination Medicine, Experience Management Healthcare, Healthcare Strategic Planning, Physician Experience Management

John M. McKeever Chief Growth Officer

John McKeever supports leaders who are seeking to make high impact changes in their business, primarily to advance strategies for growth and business optimization.  He...

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