Consumerism in Healthcare: 4 Rapidly Emerging Trends
Casey Null - Senior Strategist
Merriam-Webster defines consumerism simply: the promotion of the consumer’s interests. And while the concept’s definition may feel straightforward, the implications of consumerism run much deeper than many realize.
In the mid-1990s, the internet unleashed what could be considered an information revolution, placing more data than ever in the hands of today’s consumers. Rather quickly – within two decades – the rise of consumerism influenced changes in corporate responsibility and culture. It gave us faster shipping, experiential retail and the emergence of subscription e-commerce. It brought about rapid transformation in how brands engage their customers, integrating multiple online and offline channels into more cohesive experiences. Consumer choices have transformed virtually every industry, ultimately improving the experience for consumers and suppliers alike.
And the healthcare industry was no exception. Search engines and sites like WebMD brought complex health information into homes, putting it at the fingertips of consumers looking to arm themselves with real medical knowledge for the first time. That information became a utility, a means of solving problems. And utilities inevitably find applications.
Today, the consumerization of healthcare is driving major disruption to one of the world’s largest industries, identifiable in the examination of several emerging trends:
Decreasing healthcare affordability is driving increased consumer accountability. Between 2006 and 2015, the average employer-sponsored healthcare insurance deductible rose 120%, bringing consumers’ out-of-pocket healthcare expenses to a collective $330 billion. In response, many consumers are taking actions that indicate increased personal accountability for their health and well-being, prioritizing sleep, healthy eating, medical screenings and exercise.
The traditional care continuum is being disrupted by innovators solving for cost and convenience. When you consider that the average time spent in emergency departments in the U.S. is more than two hours and visiting a retail clinic costs roughly 80% less, it’s not surprising to see solutions like CVS Health’s Minute Clinic thriving. Fewer consumers report having primary care providers today than ever before as many say they’re willing to use cheaper, faster alternatives for things like vaccinations, preventive screenings and care for minor illnesses.
Digital engagement is playing a larger role in consumer decision-making. When queried in a recent study about which companies healthcare organizations should aspire to be like, respondents most frequently cited tech-focused innovators including Amazon, Google and Apple. The types of interactions and relationships consumers have with these companies strongly suggest what they want from healthcare organizations. Many want to be better healthcare consumers, and they understand that means being more engaged.
Everything comes down to patient experience. The rise of consumerism means healthcare organizations can no longer be better in their ads than they are in reality. To merge an organization’s brand promise and its patient experience, marketers must help integrate operations and communications. By working cross-functionally, organizations can better monitor patients’ reactions to the healthcare experience and adjust/optimize services as needed.
It is more critical than ever that marketers in the healthcare industry embrace these emerging trends and tailor their thinking both internally and externally to offer the experience consumers expect.
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