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Health Care Providers Work to Improve Consumer Experience; Challenges Remain

June 29, 2018

As consumers pay more out-of-pocket costs for their health care, they are shopping for the fairest cost and best value. Health care providers are working to meet their needs for more information and convenience. A recent report outlines some of the challenges they face.

The 2018 Kaufman Hall Healthcare Consumerism Survey asked 425 executives representing 200 health care organizations about their progress to become more consumer-centric. This information is the basis for their report, 2018 State of Consumerism in Healthcare.

Survey results reveal that 90 percent of provider respondents said that improving consumer experience is a priority. Compared to 2017, the level of activity is increasing to better serve consumers, but there is no consistent strategy and movement within the industry.

Two major challenges to success are:

  • Lack of consumer insights and analytics to drive consumerism strategy––only 25 percent of respondents have a team completely dedicated to collecting and analyzing consumer information
  • Continued focus on more traditional approaches to meet consumer access and information needs––a gap in innovation

    
Survey highlights include:

  • Only eight percent of hospitals and health systems demonstrate strong consumer-centric performance. Providers that are ahead of the curve are constantly making changes informed by consumer monitoring. 
  • Twenty-three percent of respondents are piloting new consumer initiatives.
  • Fifty-two percent say their consumer-driven responses are reactionary, not long term. The remaining 17 percent want more information before they test the waters.
  • When it comes to access, the majority of providers focus on outpatient facilities, urgent care centers, and free-standing imaging sites. Less common are strategies that include retail clinics, video visits, e-mail consults, and concierge primary care. 
  • Health care providers need to work on reducing office wait times and developing customer-friendly billing statements. 
  • Pricing strategies and transparency also present major challenges, but leave open the greatest room for improvement. Only half of respondents use more sophisticated pricing methods. Thirty-seven percent of providers surveyed have a price estimator at their website or patient portal. 
  • Securing consumer insights and analytics are foundational to a consumer-centric organization. About 85 percent use consumer surveys, but far fewer (32%) use more sophisticated tools to understand customer behavior and preferences. Most organizations surveyed do not have the dedicated infrastructure needed to collect, analyze, and execute consumer insights and analytics.

Pennsylvania hospitals are tracking the national patterns. There is broad awareness that consumer expectations have changed and hospitals must fulfill those expectations. They are working to make changes, but the incremental pace is a problem. Within the state’s hospital community, there also are providers who mirror the top eight percent that demonstrate strong consumer-centric performance. 

HAP encourages hospitals to build consumerism into their long-term strategic plans and adopt best practices that help consumers navigate the complex health care delivery system.

HAP also supports the American Hospital Association’s recent request that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services convene a multi-stakeholder process to advance price transparency in health care. Such an initiative would include sharing information about health plan benefit structure and cost-sharing amounts, and overall health care literacy.

For additional information about HAP’s transparency work, contact Jolene Calla, Esquire, HAP’s vice president, health care finance and insurance.
 

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