Time for Consumerism

Consumerism is Coming to Healthcare

I recently heard an ad on Pandora; I’d love to tell you that the ad interrupted my “workout jams,” but the reality is that I was just pulling out of a fast-food joint. The ad was from a payer and was centered on their dedication to providing “the highest-quality care at the lowest possible price.” Working at KLAS has turned me into something of a healthcare nerd, so while I typically turn the volume down for ads, I turned the volume up this time.

I wanted to hear specifically how the payer was going to innovate and make their goal a reality. I suppose I might have been asking too much for a 30-second Pandora spot, but the ad left me disappointed. It ended by saying, “This new approach is called ‘value-based care!’”

I’ll admit: even with access to all of the research KLAS has been doing on the subject, I still sometimes have trouble pinning down what exactly I—the consumer—should expect from my health insurer and care provider in a value-based care world. I tried to think of the ad through the eyes of an average consumer instead of someone more familiar with the ins and outs of healthcare. As I did so, I grew more and more frustrated. “What do you mean when you say this new and innovative method of healthcare is called ‘value-based?’” the consumer inside me asked. “What on earth was my care based on before?”

As you and I know, it was (and mostly still is) based on a fee-for-service model. I think most consumers understand that as well. We all know that when someone gets X services done, he or she  ends up paying Y amount for them. The part that frustrated my “consumer brain” was the idea that “value” was a new concept for healthcare. Was that implying that I’ve been ripped off up until now?

Other industries have mastered the art of consumerism. As one visitor to America put it, “Americans are marketing geniuses.” Despite this, healthcare has yet to fully embrace consumerism. As costs continue to rise in a way that makes patients feel the burden, healthcare consumers are taking their bargain-shopping skills (honed after years of bargain hunting in other markets) and applying them to their health. It’s a rare week that there isn’t someone on my social-media feeds asking the Internet’s hive mind for suggestions of medical practitioners and ways to cut costs on healthcare spending.

Like it or not, ready or not, consumerism is coming to healthcare. Thankfully, healthcare has no shortage of brilliant, innovative people who want nothing more than to provide excellent care to their patients. KLAS recently had the chance to send our President, Adam Gale, out to the Center for Connected Medicine for the Top of Mind 2018 Summit. This conference is just one example of the ear-to-the-ground attitude that the movers and shakers in healthcare have adopted. They’re aware of what waits on the horizon and are excited to meet it head-on.

At this conference, Adam spoke on pioneering in healthcare. It’s a highly romanticized idea: wandering out into the frontier, but it comes with challenges. As Adam said, “Pioneers get shot at all the time.” But if we aren’t occasionally seeing bullets fly, are we really pushing the boundaries? It’s harder to find a wilder west in healthcare than consumerism. As an industry, we’ve still got a long way to go when it comes to marketing to our current and potential patients.

While those of us within the industry are sick of hearing buzzwords like “value-based care,” we’ll need to put on the fresh ears of a consumer as we shift payment models. Otherwise, our attempts to “sell” healthcare to consumers will ultimately fall flat.