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Patient-centered care and the consumerization of healthcare

Written by: Dena McCorry, Director Healthcare Industry

In a recent article on healthcare trends, we explored what we (and some of our healthcare clients) believe will be some of the major trends impacting  the industry in 2022.

One of those we called “consumerization,” which will be fueled by myriad factors, not the least of which is Gartner’s prediction that, by 2025, approximately 20% of patients, providers, and payers (insurers) will be connected via a digital marketplace.

But what exactly do we mean when we say “consumerization?”

Yes, it can mean more of a marketplace where consumers have more control over which providers to use, what services to request, what information to provide, etc.

Yes, it can mean a more informed consumer as well, a trend that’s been in place for years (e.g., WebMD launched way back in 1996).

But when we view the notion of the patient as a consumer or a client (which more and more healthcare providers are doing) through the lens of patient-centered care, we see major changes on the horizon that will benefit healthcare providers as much as they do patients/clients/consumers.

First, a little more on how the industry is defining patient-centered care in 2022.

What does patient-centered care mean in 2022?

Simply put, a patient-centered care model leans into more personalized treatment, more information sharing and cooperative decision-making among providers and patients (and their families), a greater focus on total well-being (physical, mental, emotional), and more means of self-service for patients.

It can be helpful to consider patient-centered care as patient-driven care as the patient is more involved and has more control. Additionally, treatments, therapeutics, and procedures that may be advised by a provider are also more tailored to a patient’s lifestyle and values.

A cornerstone of patient-centered care is the technology that collects and codifies patient information, and connects it to healthcare systems, creating more complex and custom patient profiles that help providers more quickly address patient needs and, in turn, fuel patient satisfaction.

For example, as one of its primary benefits, the Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare focuses on enhancing patient engagement, which is pretty amazing. Think of it: as little as 10 years ago, healthcare technologies were primarily focused on lowering operating costs, speeding processes, and the like. Today — while technology still delivers those foundational benefits — the lead benefit being presented is patient engagement.

Enter the client, the consumer, the patient

Consumerization, in healthcare, is not really like it is in other industries. Outside healthcare, consumerization generally means the consumer is taking the reins in driving down costs, reducing the amount of steps between themselves and the manufacturers (i.e., cutting out more and more middlemen), and more in charge of the how — and the “how much” — in the purchasing process.

In healthcare in the U.S. in 2022, however, consumerization will not necessarily lead to lower prices, but it should lead to higher quality care.

The digital marketplace that Gartner calls out is evidence of this possibility as it will provide greater transparency into a depth and breadth of services. It won’t be a “Yelp for healthcare,” per se, but a digital marketplace can offer a greater range of options and providers for patients to explore and provide more means of communication between providers and patients (and patients and other patients), which are critical components in creating higher quality service.

Additionally, consumerization in patient-centered care means technologies that put healthcare services literally in the palm of the patient’s hand.

It’s no secret that — primarily due to HIPAA compliance concerns — healthcare is one of the few industries still using fax machines (as fax machines can boast a “one to one” relationship in sending private information). However, advances in encryption have meant mobility services are now in more widespread use.

Combine increased mobility services with additional tools such as the IoMT, Internet of Medical Things and VR tools, and the entirety of most standard patient care may soon be able to be addressed via a mobile device. And there’s likely nothing that speaks more to consumerization of patient-centered care than healthcare essentially becoming an app.

Stay tuned as we explore more trends in detail in future articles. Contact us today to learn more about our healthcare solutions, the Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare, or how we can help equip your healthcare organization to better address the new realities of patient-centered care.