If you look at nearly any assessment of how the health care industry is evolving, the word “consumerism” comes up regularly. What exactly does that mean, and why does the consumer have so much power all of a sudden?
It wasn’t many years ago that nearly everyone got their health insurance from their employer, and today, nearly 60% of people still do. But even for the 60% of people who still get their insurance through their employers there is a significant shift that is occurring as employers are contributing less to their coverage, making employees more aware of the cost of their health insurance.
Let’s face it, before people make a purchase, especially one that is as expensive as the cost of health insurance, they research the product, read customer service reviews, and shop for the best price. Taking this idea into the health insurance segment is exactly what “consumerism” is all about.
So what are consumers looking for when interacting with their health insurance companies?
- Access – to information, to doctors, to pricing. Consumers are looking for everything from transparency in pricing, in other words knowing the cost of a medical procedure before scheduling it, to a physician review.
- Partnership – with a shift to a more holistic approach to patient care, consumers are looking for an insurer and a health system that provide collaborative treatment programs. Since patients are more financially responsible than ever before, many want to be part of the discussion before deciding on a treatment path.
- Simplicity – information overload is not going to help consumers make any key decision; instead, it will slow them down. Clear, concise, and personalized communications will help provide the best pathway moving forward for consumers looking to purchase health insurance.
Certainly, the way that a consumer interacts with nearly all brands has changed significantly over the last 10 years and the health insurance industry is not the only industry facing this challenge. Online shopping has become the norm, and the reference to a shopping cart rarely has anything to do with a piece of equipment that is pushed around a retail store. Some consumers even order their groceries online and just pick them up at the store or have them shipped directly to their homes. So, understandably, these interactions are changing the way that consumers want to interact with all products and services that they use.
It is an exciting time to be in the health care industry, as many will agree that this new level of engagement with consumers is challenging yet refreshing! Consumers are taking responsibility for their health and are looking for insurance companies to help lead the way to a healthier lifestyle.