In the era of digital technology, consumerism in healthcare means patients demand the same kind of seamless digital experience they get when dealing with other service-oriented industries. The idea of healthcare consumerism is to empower patients to be involved in their healthcare decisions throughout every step of the patient journey. Over the past decade, patients have taken a more active role in educating themselves and directly managing their own health. And with more than 80 percent of consumers now researching their healthcare options, new technologies provide consumers new ways to engage in their own healthy living and in managing certain conditions. In other words, technology is empowering the healthcare consumer to take control of their health.
The Healthcare Consumer
As informed consumerism rises, health systems will need to shift how they attract, engage, and treat new patients. Digital health tools must be a priority for health systems of all sizes. As noted in the image below, large health systems are more likely to say that patient-facing tools are critical or high priority. In other words, healthcare organizations should envision their patients as a healthcare consumer.
The health care industry’s appetite for data has grown beyond medical histories. In the most recent PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report on top health industry issues of 2020, healthcare consumerism and incorporating digital health into organizational strategies are two big areas of focus for healthcare organizations. In 2020, healthcare organizations will make strategic deals not simply to grow larger but to expand into new identities with platforms anchored in value, innovation, customer experience, and population health. There’s now a better understanding that digital and analytics technologies have the potential to predict health needs and engage systematically with consumers in real-time. In other words, adopt a healthcare consumerism strategic mindset.
Patients now assume they’ll have the same digital experience in healthcare that they get everywhere else in their lives, and they’re dissatisfied when we don’t deliver. – Katie Scott, Vice President of Digital Strategy and Innovation, UPMC Enterprises
Below we will review a few examples of technology and retail companies that have adopted a healthcare consumerism approach. Covered organizations include Uber Health, Lyft, Unite Us, Walmart Health, and Amazon.
The Healthcare Consumerism Strategic Approach – Early Adopters
It makes sense that one of the most well-known retail stores in the world would adopt a healthcare consumerism strategic approach. This shift should seem natural for Walmart, and it should be something easy that the healthcare consumer can adopt. Simple is key. Towards the end of Q3 2019, Walmart announced its move in the healthcare marketplace, opening the first Walmart Health center in Dallas, Georgia. With no insurance required, Walmart Health centers offer medical checkups for $30. In comparison, researchers at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Public Health estimated the average price of a new uninsured patient appointment was around $160. Following Walmart’s announcement into healthcare, former Apple CEO John Sculley told CNBC’s Make It that the industry will see a dramatic shift into a “consumer revolution in retail for point of care.”
Walmart’s clinics are staffed by a variety of health professionals including physicians, nurse practitioners, dentists, optometrists, and behavioral health providers. On-site care navigators and community health workers are also available to assist. Perhaps Walmart Health is proof that the private sector can deliver high-quality, transparently priced health care services without government intervention. CVS Health has taken a similar approach to the retail clinic with its HealthHUB model, in which it dedicates 20% of its store to health services.
Amazon x2 — Haven Healthcare & Amazon Care
For a few years, Amazon has been talked about when it came to organizations that could radically disrupt the healthcare space. The first major announcement came with the creation of Haven – a partnership between Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase to bring together the resources and capabilities of the three companies to create better outcomes, greater satisfaction, and lower costs for their U.S. employees and families. While the initial focus is only on the employees of these three organizations, this move is smart. They can start with a great patient population that’s large enough to build a scalable business model while also targeting enough of a population to improve outcomes financially dramatically. The long-term goal of Have is to share its innovations and solutions to help others.
Although the focus of Haven is the utilization of the cloud and artificial intelligence, the organization has been relatively quiet since launching its website in March 2019.
In September 2019, Amazon launched Amazon Care, a pilot healthcare service offering initially available to its employees in and around the Seattle area. Amazon Care is offered through a mobile application and provides virtual and in-person care, follow-up visits, and prescription drug delivery directly to the employee’s home or office. Available 365 days a year, video care is offered between 6:00 am – 10:00 pm, and live in-app care chat on any health topic is available 24/7.
How is Amazon Care structured, and does Amazon employ its own clinical staff? In short, no. According to the Amazon Care website, virtual and in-person healthcare services are offered through Oasis Medical. When it comes to billing health insurance for services rendered, Oasis Medical will not bill an employee’s health insurance or be used in a way that will count towards the patient’s deductible for services performed. However, if medication is prescribed or laboratory tests are performed, the health insurance will be billed by the pharmacy or laboratory and may require some out-of-pocket costs due to co-pays and/or deductibles.
Driven by Consumerism
Uber Health has been working with healthcare organizations to get patients where they need to be – mapping out pain points in the non-emergency medical transportation patient experience and focusing on creating new features to help ensure that all healthcare riders can get to and from their appointments without stress or anxiety. This patient-centric focus drove Uber Health to announce new features to allow drivers and coordinators to stay connected and deliver a more seamless rider experience.
The highlighted new features include designated pickup spots, direct driver messaging, multilingual notifications, scheduling for landline users, and location sharing, auto re-ordering, and round trips capabilities. In the March 2020 press release, Uber Health stated that ultimately, this new experience will help ensure that patients can get to their appointments reliably, caregivers can focus on providing the best care possible, and healthcare organizations can reinvest their resources back into their businesses and increase their impact. Classic shift with a healthcare consumerism mindset.
Ultimately, we want to build a product that serves anybody who walks in through the door, but also that is the best in terms of ETA’s, in terms of costs, and in terms of reliable service…and so, one of the key things about our work is, the better the service you provide, you can pretty much see almost an immediate impact on moving the space forward, and bettering health outcomes.Akarshan Kumar, Product Lead, Uber Health
One Part Healthcare, Two Parts Consumerism
Lyft partners with Unite Us
Improving access to care includes reducing the transportation barrier. Unite Us, a technology company that builds coordinated care networks to connect health and social care providers, recently announced their partnership with Lyft to provide ride-enabled social service referrals in order to reduce transportation barriers. Coordinators and service providers who use Unite Us to make social care referrals can now order or schedule a Lyft ride on-demand to help patients access the care they need to live healthier lives. The goal of the partnership is to help meet the increasing demand for health and social care services in communities across the U.S.
Our partnership with Unite Us represents a significant step towards improving community health and evolving the way that people can access critical medical and social care services. –Megan Callahan, VP of Healthcare, Lyft
Lyft’s entry into the healthcare sector began in 2016 when the rideshare company identified an acute and unmet need for on-demand non-emergency medical transportation services. By integrating Lyft’s ride-sharing services with Unite Us’ coordinated care network, thousands of people across the country will have improved access to health and social care services, according to the announcement. One of the main goals of the Lyft collaboration for Unite Us is to better enable their partners when it comes to ensuring that people get the services they need when they need them.
Unite Us has spent seven years building and refining coordinated care networks that align and connect our social and health care partners around a shared goal to improve care in communities. Our experience has enabled us to identify gaps in services, and transportation is a big one.Taylor Justice, President of Unite Us
Healthcare Consumerism is Here to Stay
How successful have health systems adopted a healthcare consumerism strategic approach? Pre-COVID? Not well. During COVID? Much better.
In the traditional settings of healthcare, patients were not involved in decision-making about their own health and disease management. This began to shift dramatically in the 2010s with the digitalization of healthcare tools and services. And the 2020s have already seen an even greater call for telemedicine and other digital tools with the global outbreak of COVID-19.
In one report by The Center for Connected Medicine, they found that while more than half of health systems believe they understand which digital tools are most useful to patients, less than a third believe they are delivering a best-in-class experience for patients. As more health systems adopt a digital health business strategy, future reports will hopefully see better delivery of digital tools and services by health systems and greater utilization of these tools and services by patients.
Patients want high-quality care that is easily accessible and affordable. The theory of healthcare consumerism is that patients are taking ownership of care decisions based upon costs, their understanding of the full scope of options available to them based on research and trustworthy sources of information, and leveraging their use of technologies.
About Uber Health
Uber Health helps patients and caregivers get to the care they need by partnering closely with healthcare organizations to build something together to meet their unique transportation needs. Today, Uber Health is a HIPAA compliant technology solution that’s helped tens of thousands of patients and caregivers get to and from care. Providers can also use Uber Health to help get crucial staff to work.
Lyft was founded in 2012 and provided millions of rides daily as one of the largest and fastest-growing transportation networks in the United States and Canada. As the world shifts away from car ownership to transportation-as-a-service, Lyft is at the forefront of this massive societal change. Our transportation network brings together rideshare, bikes, scooters, car rentals, and transit all in one app. Our mission singularly drives us: to improve people’s lives with the world’s best transportation.
About Unite Us
Unite Us is a technology company that builds coordinated care networks of health and social service providers. With Unite Us, providers across sectors can send and receive secure referrals, track every person’s total health journey, and report tangible outcomes across a full range of services in a centralized, cohesive, and collaborative ecosystem. Unite Us’ dedicated team builds authentic, lasting partnerships with local organizations to ensure their networks have a solid foundation, launch successfully, and continue to grow and thrive. This social infrastructure helps communities transform their ability to work together and measure impact at scale.
About Amazon Care
Amazon Care provides a mobile application that allows you to access virtual and in-person healthcare services from Oasis Medical. Oasis Medical provides the following services: Video Care: Have an in-app video visit with a doctor, nurse practitioner, or registered nurse (“clinicians”) for advice, answers, diagnoses, treatment, or referrals. Care Chat: In-app text chat connects you to a clinician in moments for health advice. Mobile Care: Your Video Care clinician may recommend an in-person assessment or treatment by a registered nurse (a “Mobile Care nurse”). With your approval, the clinician will send a Mobile Care nurse to your home, a designated room on the Amazon campus, or another private location within our service area. The Mobile Care nurse may collect lab samples, perform some onsite testing (such as strep tests), administer common vaccines, or perform certain physical examinations. Care Courier: During a Video Care visit, your clinician may prescribe prescription medications. At your request, a Care Courier may deliver certain prescriptions to you within two hours. To learn more, visit Amazon.care.