The rise of consumer power in healthcare (Part 1)

Clare Lanaux

It’s hard to argue that the majority of consumers are pleased with the current state of of the US healthcare system. Healthcare costs are at an all time high (for the past 10 years, healthcare costs have annually grown 2.5 percent more than the US economy), rates of chronic disease (which make up 86 percent of US healthcare costs) are continuing to skyrocket, and consumers are increasingly displeased with the healthcare experience.

In every other buyer-driven industry, the consumer is in control, dictating the quality of products, driving innovation, reducing prices, and expanding choices, by applying pressure on industries. While healthcare is a consumer-industry, it poses a unique problem to buyers as they find the industry complex and confusing. This has conditioned consumers to feel powerless and predominantly dissatisfied with their overall healthcare experience.

With consumers feeling generally impotent when it comes to their health and healthcare policy, they have largely left the decision-making up to payers, providers, and accompanying policy makers. But with higher deductibles and copayments, along with more options in the exchange markets, patients are beginning to become more involved in choosing their healthcare plan while simultaneously expecting more from their healthcare provider.

When healthcare plans are broken down into different components, the majority of consumers are happy with what they’re receiving. But when consumers are asked if they are happy overall with their healthcare, a majority reply that they are not. So where is the disconnect? The major flaw when it comes to healthcare plans and consumer happiness is user experience. Consumers are pleased with what they are getting from their healthcare plan but convoluted websites, poor customer service, a lack of digital features, and hard to understand options are taining consumers views of their plans.

Consumers expect the same qualities from healthcare companies that they value in a non-healthcare setting. They expect modern devices that can easily integrate across multiple platforms and they shy away from anachronous tools that create more mess than necessary. Consumers also value great customer service, delivering on expectations, making life easier, and offering great value.
Consumers are displeased with the state of current healthcare, but it can be hard to decipher what consumers want. In the next article of this three part series, we will discuss what consumers really want, even if they themselves don’t know it.