As increasing numbers of Baby Boomers reach retirement age and Millennials start families, the impact of consumerism on the healthcare system continues to grow. Consumerism coupled with the sheer volume of data freely available online about treatments and potential cures have made the management of patient expectations a serious concern for healthcare professionals in recent years.
That is only expected to continue. But what impact will this have on health system operations? Patient expectations need to be properly managed not just because of the impact on patient satisfaction but also to decrease potential liability.
Here are four ways that consumerism has affected patient expectations and how they can be managed.
1. Access to Care
It's a fact that consumers today, in any industry, are much more demanding when it comes to customer service. Sitting for two hours in a doctor's waiting room used to be the norm, but is now considered to be a major inconvenience. Patients want both friendly and fast service from their healthcare providers. If they don't receive it, chances are they'll go somewhere else, and they'll be able to read scores of online reviews to find their next physician.
Convenience can't be understated, particularly with Millennials. A recent study from JAMA Pediatrics has shown that 25% of Millennials will choose a retail clinic over a pediatrician for the sheer fact that it is convenient. A well-run physicians' office will have the procedures in place to provide friendly and timely access to care. Patients will have positive experiences, will return for additional visits, and will likely be more inclined to pay their bills in a timely fashion.
2. Shared Decision Making
At the same time patients want better access to care, they also now want a greater share than ever in the decisions made about their health. Technological advances and unlimited online access mean that the patient is probably reading up on their symptoms even before they see a physician.
When this data is presented by the patient in the physician's office, whether valid or not, it is the physician's job to turn the office visit into an opportunity to educate and create bonds. As patients show an increasing interest in their healthcare decisions, it's been shown that they exhibit a greater level of satisfaction.
3. Better Coordinated Care
Rising healthcare costs have made most patients very conscious of such things as deductibles and co-pays. Patients now expect that their providers will be aware of this for them and any tools provided that allow better coordination of care and cost savings are going to lead to greater patient satisfaction.
Both Google and Apple now offer cloud-based healthcare and payment apps. And many healthcare technology companies have successfully implemented patient-centric technology such as patient check-in kiosks, self-service bill pay, and immediate online eligibility verification. A streamlined coordination of medical care using technology is the next step to achieving the demands of patients as consumers.
4. Health Management
In this increasingly digital age of wearable medical devices, physicians now have access to more data about their patients than ever before. The mHealth (mobile Health) apps are hugely popular, and a recent study from Research Now found that 46% of clinicians believe these apps will improve the clinician-patient relationship.
Patients are using these apps on their phones and through their Fitbits and other fitness tracking devices, because they are showing a greater interest in their overall health and well-being. The healthcare professional's role is ideally to both participate in the enthusiasm and to make use of the data that these apps can provide. Patient-Generated Health Data (PGHD) can play a significant role in treating chronic diseases and in providing advanced warning of other problems.
Meeting patient expectations isn't new. While patient consumerism and technology have had a huge impact on patient expectations, there are ways to manage these that will both mitigate liability and increase overall patient satisfaction. In most scenarios, it's the embracing of technology itself that will provide the key for health care providers to keep pace.
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