A Welcome Mat for Health Care Consumers

Shopping for health care isn’t like shopping for a toothbrush, but health care consumers are starting to have some similar expectations. This article notes the results of a set of focus groups held as a result of collaboration between Aon Hewitt and The National Business Group on Health and The Futures Company. (The report can be downloaded from this page; note that the download function is not working as of this writing.) What emerged is a kind of check-off list of features and expectations that are taking shape in health care consumers’ minds. Looking at how we practice, operate our businesses and communicate with patients and prospective patients can only help providers succeed and thrive as the health care marketplace goes through this period of disruptive change. 

What are health care consumers’ expectations? Pretty much the same as for any other decision where information is available on the web. People want to be able to make comparisons and know what others’ experiences and opinions are. According to the published report, they specifically they:

  • The ability to quickly search, filter and compare features and costs
  • Access to reviews and ratings from other people like themselves
  • Access to independent assessments from experts on specific health topics
  • Mobile-enabled apps and responsively designed sites
  • Comprehensive health and health care information collected or curated all in one place
  • The ability to try or test different plans or benefit options
  • Incentives and discounts for healthy activities or practices

So how can doctors of chiropractic position themselves to respond to these expectations? There are four basic areas where providers can prepare for the health consumer revolution.

  1. Post your prices, fees and programs. Tell people what they are getting for their money. Remember that ‘value’ is outcomes over cost, and people will make purchasing choices always out of a sense of value. Remember that outcomes aren’t just about clinical measurements; they include implicit considerations of things that often have to be brought out in discussions with people: quality of life and function considerations, effects on relationships and self image and self-concept considerations are common, often-powerful considerations. How do you describe the benefits of chiropractic care and treatment? Your messaging has to bridge what is clinically truthful and the vocabulary and context of the consumer/patient.
  2. Consider what feels comfortable in terms of user reviews. There are any number of doctor review sites, from HealthGrades to Yelp to Angie’s List. Many providers will struggle feeling comfortable with encouraging patients to review them, but it is one way to establish an important consideration: trust. People trust others’ experiences.
  3. Publicize the sources of information you use about chiropractic. People rarely make decisions based on one source of information, but they do look for congruence across multiple resources. People like evidence–but individual health problems are unique, and few are going to insist on impeccable proof. What you use as resources matters to your patients. Tell them what, why and how you use information.
  4. Explore a version of a concierge practice. The payment system still favors service volume–services times y dollars per service. But that model is fading, and with ‘value-based purchasing’ coming to a network and online exchange near you in the very near future, parameters of a concierge practice will give consumers some comfort about the ‘value-added’ aspects of being in your practice family. Wellness, condition-based and other treatment programs that emphasize outcomes rather than numbers of visits will match consumers’ mindsets and expectations well.

Do these, and you have already done more than most providers will do to prepare for the changing, maturing and increasingly-sophisticated health care consumer.

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