Why Consumerism is Becoming a Top Priority Among CIOs

Within the healthcare industry, CIOs have begun to turn towards consumerism for its technological implications and its innovating change in the healthcare industry. By treating patients less like clients and more like consumers, healthcare organizations can increase engagement between medical providers and the patient-consumer. CIOs have recognized that the patients of today are vastly more resourceful than before with sources like WedMD. Because of this, they have more readily available information at their fingertips, thereby allowing patients to research their own symptoms and even find a treatment plan before visiting with a clinical professional. Rather than fight against this process and bemoan online resources, consumerism instead has become a top priority among CIOs.

Unlike patients who are just actively involved in their healthcare, consumers are informed decision makers and healthcare providers respond to their interest above all others. As such, CIOs know that it is important to establish creative solutions that go beyond the exam room. These solutions will provide more than just a mobile platform that allows healthcare providers and patients to only cover appointment coordination and the routine questions. Instead, CIOs are seeing the need to shift the mindset toward something that resembles the retail industry; something that puts value on convenience and efficiency - much of what patient-consumers want today.

Economists have challenged the slowness of the healthcare industry embracing consumerism. Costs could be lower, quality improved, and service better if the industry repositioned itself as a consumer market. In today’s world of instant gratification, we have seen other industries leap at the chance to be more readily available and connect quicker with their consumer. Social media has formed a bond between buyer and seller unlike any we’ve seen before. Moreover, consumers are looking and asking for quicker responses and more convenient availability. We want an answer or feedback as soon as possible. Society has already seen responses to this need for instant gratification with resources that allow you to consult a physician from the comfort of your home, 24/7 or even the offer of online certification classes such as BLS certification. Information now, answers now is the call that CIOs have heard and they are answering that through consumerism.

This isn’t to be seen as a demanding call however, consumers are ready to become more informed and active decision-makers. Rather than be told what to do and when, they are receptive to technology that could improve their abilities to engage with healthcare providers. This, on the surface level, for physicians can mean using technologies that help eliminate unnecessary visits, think of chatbots, kiosks that can answer basic questions so that patients don’t need to wait in line for a face-to-face with a doctor. This can also mean reducing redundant paperwork, and improving overall service.

Accepting consumerism is, in a sense, teaching patients to fish rather than giving them a one-time healthy meal. Hospitals and health insurance companies will need to create new sets of tools to better equip individuals to make their own judgements on healthcare options, giving them a better understanding of potential benefits and risks. They will need to step into consumerism just as the retail sector has to give their consumers a personalized plan. Solutions need to be customized to a consumer's problems that also reflect the level of risk the individual wants to take clinically and financially, based upon their personal circumstances and physical condition. Solutions also need to include real-time decision-making where consumers are equipped with the tools necessary to ask appropriate questions and informatively engage with their provider.

By helping patients become informed consumers, equipped with the proper tools and information, consumers will benefit by driving more value into the system. Under today’s traditional system, CIOs have recognized that the paternalism toward “patients” actually results in poor service and higher costs. But informed consumers can hold the system accountable for improved value and even offer the opportunity to shop for alternatives.

In the end, those who will benefit from this consumerism market can be just about everyone. Families and individuals will have better resources at their fingertips and will be more informed to be actively making decisions in their healthcare. Other beneficiaries are also employers that support health benefits as they will have a healthy, stable workforce especially if the benefits received are substantially better than other offers. Additionally, communities as a whole can benefit when the entire system - hospitals, doctors, and pharmacies - altogether deliver improved value. The pursuit of value by our healthcare system can spur economic vitality. It is no wonder that consumerism has become a top priority for CIOs when the final outcome could very well be lower per-capita health costs that attract businesses to communities and stable workforces and an overall better sense of value in an entire community.

Rick Delgado

Rick Delgado is a freelance technology writer and commentator.

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