Strategy&: US consumers the new bosses in healthcare

28 October 2014 Consultancy.uk

There is a new boss in healthcare industry and that is the consumer, this states consulting firm Strategy& in its newly released report into the preferences of US healthcare consumers. The report shows that these consumers are not happy with the overall consumer experience, have high expectations when it comes to transparency, value, and service, and are willing to try non-traditional healthcare providers and engagement methods. Something healthcare providers should respond to.

Strategy consulting firm Strategy&, member firm of the PwC network, has recently released its new report titled ‘The birth of the healthcare consumer - Growing demands for choice, engagement, and experience’. For this research, Strategy& surveyed 2,339 US residents about their preferences for managing their health, purchasing healthcare coverage, and accessing care. The participants were grouped in three health categories: healthy, at-risk, and catastrophic, of which the last category makes up 20% of the population that account for 80% of healthcare spending in the US.

The overall conclusion of the survey: there’s a new boss in US healthcare and that is the consumer. Strategy&’s report shows that even though US consumers are happy with the different aspects of their healthcare consumer experience, such as the core benefits, cost and quality, administrative services, and the programs to manage their health, the majority of the consumers is displeased with its overall consumer experience.

Consumers satisfaction

The healthcare consumer is changing along with the growing amount of options for healthcare companies as well as the digitasation of the industry. Expectations for transparency, value, and customer service are rising among consumers and with this, their willingness to choose for non-traditional healthcare companies. The research shows that almost the same amount of consumers trust large retailers or digitally enabled companies such as Amazon for health services as insurance companies, a development that could cost traditional healthcare providers dearly.

“’One size fits all’ does not work anymore in healthcare. Consumers today are savvier and more sceptical, have more options for managing their health, and expect their individual preferences to be met. Healthcare companies need to adapt to this new reality quickly, and in some cases disrupt their own traditional business models -- or risk being disrupted themselves,” says Jaime Estupiñán, Partner Health Practice Strategy&.

Willingness to use non-traditional companies

Strategy& states that at different stages in the life of consumers, their considerations, priorities, and trade-offs in their healthcare vary significantly, which will influence their decision making. For instance, ‘trusted advice’ is the most important for all generations when it comes to satisfaction and loyalty, but for young ‘value’ is also a key factor, which it is not so much for seniors.

When looking at methods of engagement, differences in preference are seen among the different age categories. “Consumers are looking for more choice, better engagement through the channels they prefer, and healthcare experiences tailored to their individual needs,” says Ashish Kaura, Partner Health Practice of Strategy&. For people under 45 the preferred means of engagement is digital, while people older than 45 choose facility services.

Preferred form of engagement

According to Strategy&, there is still a disparity between what consumers want and what they are actually getting. More than 25% of all respondents listed digital means as their preferred method of engagement with a healthcare provider, and 80% stated they would engage digital services that help manage their healthcare, something these providers should respond to, as currently less than a quarter of the consumers is actually making use of digital means. 

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