New State of Consumerism in Healthcare report shows emphasis remains on brick-and-mortar access points rather than digital strategies
CHICAGO – June 4, 2019 – An overwhelming 88 percent of U.S. hospital and health system executives agree that their organizations are vulnerable to consumer-friendly offerings from non-hospital competitors, such as Optum, CVS Health, and Amazon. Yet many are not doing enough to develop the strong, consumer-centric foundations their organizations need to compete in today’s online, convenience-obsessed, and increasingly consumer-focused world, according to a new Kaufman Hall report, titled 2019 State of Consumerism in Healthcare: The Bar Is Rising.
The fourth annual report provides a lens to industry performance related to consumerism, based on survey responses from hospitals and health systems nationwide. It found that top performers kept pace with previous years, while many underperformers fell further behind. The Kaufman Hall Healthcare Consumerism Index ranks participating organizations based on an overall measure of how well they are meeting rising consumer demands across the core areas of consumer access, experience, pricing, and infrastructure. For the second consecutive year, just 8 percent of organizations rated as Tier 1 performers and only about a quarter rated as Tier 2. The most significant changes occurred in the lower tiers. Thirty-nine percent of organizations ranked as Tier 3 this year, compared to 52 percent in 2018. Meanwhile, those in Tier 4 increased from 17 percent in 2018 to 29 percent in 2019.
Much of the backsliding is due to legacy providers’ continued focus on relatively traditional, physical access points. As with previous years, the majority of survey respondents said they offer widespread urgent care (61 percent), ambulatory surgery centers (51 percent), and free-standing diagnostics facilities (41 percent). By comparison, nearly half said their organizations had no retail clinics. Other types of access initiatives aimed at increasing convenience for consumers are even less prevalent. For example, only a third of organizations offer widespread online self-scheduling for existing patients, and just 16 percent offer this service for new patients.
“Many hospitals and health systems remain focused on a brick-and-mortar model of offering consumers access to their providers,” said Dan Clarin, senior vice president, strategic and financial planning at Kaufman Hall. “Consumers are accustomed to the convenience of being able to access the goods and services they need on their smartphones, tablets, and computers. Healthcare organizations that want to connect with new or potential consumers should adapt their delivery models to remain relevant in an increasingly digital environment.”
Looking at consumer experience initiatives, an overwhelming 81 percent of executives responding to the survey identified “improving the customer experience” as a high priority for their organizations. Yet only 11 percent said they had best-in-class customer experience capabilities in place. Few organizations offer real-time scheduling and communications necessary to keep pace with today’s digitally connected consumers. For example, 66 percent of organizations offer limited-to-no opportunities for real-time patient feedback, while half offer no real-time updates on in-office wait times and 38 percent offer such updates only on a limited basis.
“As consumers continue to gain greater digital access to information and services in other areas of their lives, they expect the same of their healthcare experience,” said Clarin. “Providers must introduce digital best practices as part of their overall customer experience strategies, and begin to think in terms of ‘delighting’ rather than merely ‘satisfying’ consumers going forward. Doing so will require substantial investments in infrastructure and training.”
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