April 25th, 2012
Posted by Caroline Popper, M.D., M.P.H.
In my previous post, I discussed the need for healthcare companies to take a more market-focused approach to the healthcare consumer, including a more concentrated effort to segment the market and tailor strategies to different consumer groups.
Today, I’d like to explore the growing power of the healthcare consumer.
Overall, healthcare costs – both on the societal and the individual level – are increasing. Consumers are required, one way or another, to pay a greater share. So they are starting, albeit slowly, to ask questions about value. And they are interested in the value to themselves, individually, not to the population as a whole. How the consumer perceives healthcare value is an area that needs a lot of further exploration.
At Popper and Company, we have observed that an empowered consumer, armed with more information than ever before, is using this information to demand more tailored, customer-centric treatment from practitioners and institutions and from the tools and technology used. This customer demand is starting to move information from large centers accessible only to physicians, researchers or engineers to mobile devices, web sites and social media platforms accessible to nearly everyone.
How might healthcare innovators respond to such changes in customer demand?
- Create new metrics, like the popular Consumers Union of the U.S. rankings, that measure how customers rate a product (high/low acquisition costs, maintenance costs, product lifespan) according to their preferences. This would require healthcare providers and technology developers to consider customer input in their products and services. More significantly, it would require them to be able to describe their products and services in a way that’s comparable to a competitor’s (and in ways that consumers will understand).
- This new “report to consumers” would require the development of information systems that can read customer behavior, wants, and needs. Seeing patients as customers means considering how these customers will react to products or services, and taking those reactions into account when designing a product or service, or when developing a new treatment strategy.
Certainly, this would require quite a paradigm shift in the life sciences industry, but it’s the way our colleagues in the automobile, electronics, and durable goods industries work every day. Now, as in these other industries, consumers can educate themselves and retrieve information easily. Therefore, it’s probably time that our industry joined those other industries in putting consumer perceived needs first or a the very least on a par with what the health care providers think is “good for them.”
Do you think a consumer ranking system is possible broadly in healthcare? How readily are you now able to capture your customer’s ratings and opinions of your company or its products? Are there any other ways those developing healthcare solutions can integrate and embrace the changing role of the customer? Please share your thoughts with us.