RoadmapAfter discussing recent reports from McKinsey and the Advisory Board with our health practice leaders, I am more convinced than ever that the future of healthcare delivery will be determined by you – and me. But, we probably don’t realize it. The initial results of consumer responses to healthcare delivery changes will likely tell us a lot about what to expect next.

How are consumers responding when employers reduce employee work hours to eliminate the company’s requirement to provide health insurance plans? They are turning to insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act – and becoming more familiar with the concept of shared costs.

retail clinicsHow are consumers responding to the growing number of medical clinics popping up at CVS, Walmart, Walgreen’s and other retail locations? By all measures, consumers seem open to retail care when receiving inoculations, immunizations and episodic care when convenience is the priority.

How are consumers accepting the technology that plays an ever-growing role in monitoring and maintaining our health? Sales of Fitbit and the Apple Watch are expected to be high this holiday – but these devices are only the tip of the iceberg.

What is happening as physician assistants (PA) and nurse practitioners (NP) play even greater roles in the care of consumers? My physician is actually jealous because his PA can often spend more time with patients – thereby receiving higher ratings on online tools like Healthgrades and Vitals where consumers are increasingly seeking input when choosing a provider. Similarly, McKinsey’s recent report shows patients care as much or more about how they are treated, the empathy they receive and the communication that keeps them informed, as they care about their health outcomes! They often appreciate the nurse and the PA as much as they do the physician. And recent studies from the Advisory Board indicate an increased willingness to engage in virtual physician visits. According to the most recent report, 2014 marked the tipping point in adoption of this channel of access, with 75 million estimated visits. In addition, 72% of consumers said they would be willing to see a doctor via video.

Affordable Care Act. KeyboardHow will the Affordable Care Act (ACA) impact already-insured consumers as millions of newly insured patients enter the nation’s healthcare delivery network? The ACA required uninsured individuals and families to buy health insurance. Most are opting for less-expensive, higher deductible, higher co-pay insurance plans. But, they are not alone. Companies and already insured consumers also are shifting to higher deductible, higher co-pay plans. In our company, historical use suggests that fewer than 10% actually save money with low deductible HMO or PPO products. But, consumers will no doubt pay more attention to costs as they come out of pocket with their deductible payments. Does that mean consumers will always choose the cheapest option? Not necessarily. So far, 66 percent of consumers buying ACA insurance coverage have chosen plans that were not the cheapest alternative. Yet, higher deductibles and co-pays will likely prompt consumers to pay more attention to healthcare delivery costs in the future. We used to debate about our choice of physicians. Now, consumers are faced with a choice of doctor, insurance plan, and hospital or other facility, based upon costs and outcomes.

 

As we close out the year and prepare for a new one, we begin to ask ourselves, “Where is healthcare delivery headed?” It is clear that access, convenience and cost will all play a role. The health systems that will prosper in this “reconsumerization” of healthcare are those that shift their focus from market share to consumer behavior.

 

Image credits: Pandera, Medical Economics and Family-In-Law