Consumerism and business: Four takeaways

Four primary insights about consumerism and its impact on business.


Recently, I had the privilege of speaking to a group of 150 Midwest health care executives and participating on a small panel discussion in Michigan. My keynote theme was “consumerism,” a buzzworthy topic industry experts have been talking about for several years now.

What struck me during my interactive address was the evolution of the consumerism discussion from just a few years ago.

The health care executives in this annual meeting had shifted their conversation from “we know that we need to be doing consumerism” to “we need to advance to meet consumers’ needs and grow in the right way.”

From this conversation, I left with four key takeaways for providers to consider, not only to create loyalty and drive growth, but also to drive consumer engagement in their care and improve outcomes.


1. Dig into data to know your consumers

Much of the conversation with these executives centered on the notion of “knowing your consumers.” But, truly knowing what consumers want and value is difficult to pinpoint accurately.  Health care is local, and what consumers want and need is very different based on different markets. Consumer priorities in a given market are driven by a combination of the demographic mix and the health care landscape, but the non-health care landscape influences how consumers shop and interact with other services.

To that end, it is important to test hypotheses about consumers and dig into the data. The group discussed the need for health systems to develop these early hypotheses to determine if what they think their consumers want is driven by anecdotes — and the loudest voices in the room — or data.  In my experience, there are several data-driven methods health care executives can use to develop this deep understanding of consumers and uncover new consumer insights, including surveys, focus groups and customer journey maps.


2. Partnerships are important to execute a consumer-centric strategy

Another key theme that the health care executives kept echoing was the recognition that they don’t have to be all things to all people or provide every service or offering themselves.

More and more, we’re seeing provider organizations start to form out-of-the-box — and often out-of-industry — partnerships.  One organization Optum Advisory Services works with has partnered with Lyft, the ride-sharing app, to help its patients get to their appointments on time.

By surveying its consumers and digging deeper into the data, this organization uncovered the main reason patients were not showing up for their appointments was difficulty in finding a parking spot, not the assumed lack of transportation.

By partnering with Lyft, this organization is helping to solve a “people” issue, meeting not just a health care need but a health need.  Furthermore, at this meeting, I heard examples of provider organizations partnering with architecture and design firms to plan and design more consumer-oriented health care buildings, care sites and spaces within their hospitals.


3. Truly integrated technologies and interoperability will drive quality … in time

Using new, consumer-facing technologies, such as remote patient monitoring, can drive quality and improve insights.

However, the consensus in the room was many of these patient-facing technologies still have a long way to go in terms of interoperability and integration with a hospital or health system’s legacy systems.

Many view the latest digital technologies as bolt-on technologies, and that they're still emerging. The power of what they can offer will likely be recognized in a few more years when the technology can be more seamlessly integrated with current systems and workflows.

I echo the executives’ recommendation to learn about these emerging technologies, keep an eye on them and try to better understand which companies are doing what right now when it comes to digital patient-facing tech.


4. A healthy amount of discomfort around competition is a good thing

One executive made the comment, “The health care industry is a taxi on the verge of an Uber world,” signaling a perception that provider organizations are not meeting their consumers’ needs.

Coupled with this perception, there has been a significant amount of emerging competition (Amazon, CVS-Aetna, etc.) who think they can either do health care better or want to do health care better than our current system allows.

While there was a healthy amount of discomfort around the topic of competition and disruption in the room, most executives felt that the increased competition does not mean hospitals will go away.

The industry is on the verge of disruption, and provider organizations can use this opportunity to develop not just a consumer-centric strategy to drive growth, but a strategy that adds value to the end customer and changes the health care landscape moving forward.

If you’re looking for how best to start building a consumer-centric growth strategy that is right for your organization and your patients, please reach out. We’d love to hear from you.


The original version of this story first appeared in Healthcare Dive.


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