Can healthcare be consumer-friendly?

Expanding Levels of Choice

In today’s technology-enabled society, consumers are demanding new approaches to how they get their healthcare services. As the flow of information continues to accelerate, they discover an increasing number of choices when it comes to accessing healthcare services.

Convenience Matters!

Healthcare consumers are demanding primary and even specialty care services that are physically located close to home and work for when a visit to the doctor is required. But more than that, consumers are looking for providers that provide increasing digital access (such as secure email, Skype sessions, etc.), and have extended hours on nights and weekends. In a society where the purchase of even a modest item for the home is more likely to involve logging in to Amazon than a trip to the store, consumers want their healthcare services to leverage technology to provide the same level of convenience within their over scheduled lifestyle.

Who Is In Control?

People today want more information as they manage their own health.  When something is wrong, they want access to different team members, depending on the nature of the issue. They want guidance from a trusted provider, but they want a level of control once they are presented with options.  Consumers want access to quality, curated online information and resources so that they can better understand symptoms, diagnoses, and treatment options…and studies show that compliance with treatment programs or lifestyle changes improves as this patient engagement increases.

Some organizations are experimenting with sharing electronic health records with the patient, including the provider’s notes. While initially a daunting idea not widely embraced by healthcare professionals, early results are encouraging and it is likely that we will see this expanding as technology and information security concerns are addressed. This idea alone shifts the focus of health management from the provider to the patient.

Lastly, the cost of healthcare is being borne by the patient in ever-increasing proportions, and consumers are beginning to demand more information up front regarding the likely cost of a procedure or treatment regime. This trend will only accelerate as the marketplace becomes more competitive and consumers become more informed.

A generation ago, none of this would have been on our radar or even remotely practical. But with today’s wired world, information is just a touch-screen away in our pocket or purse.


  1. Peter Rettig /

    Welcome to the “world of blogs”, Randy.
    Yes, healthcare still has some way to go before one can call it “consumer friendly! Control of and access to one’s own health data remain a main issue for many. I once wrote about “the law of unintended consequences” related to Hospitalists (and the relationship between primary care physicians and specialists) and I wonder how this “law” will affect physician/patient relationships as more and more health data and information become available and are being shared….

  2. randycole /

    Great to hear from you Peter! Is your essay accessible online? Would you like to provide a link to it?

  3. Hugh Campbell /

    The interesting aspect of the “consumer friendly” movement in hospitals is that we sometimes forget that “consumers” are not a single monolithic group. Just like he choices that are available to consumers in hotels, cars, clothing, soap, etc. we may need to have hospitals that respond to different consumer demands. Will hospitals break out into a range from the Walmart Hospital to the Nieman Marcus Hospital? Will patient rooms range from Holiday Inn Express to the Four Seasons? Will provider systems pick a single direction to go after on end of the market or will they develop a variety of facilities that appeal to different consumers? Once we start seeing the bills ourselves the whole game changes.

    We buy things based on cost as well as quality of design. I am attracted to really high tech, others have an emotional reaction to the treatment by staff. All of us want the best but we know we can not have it all. We make choices based on many personal factors. How can this possibly come together into a single “hospital of the future”? This will be an interesting decade for hospital architects…

  4. Scott Saunders /

    Hi Randy. I really wonder if the healthcare consumer is going to be able to act as one would in a normal free market. Sure, they are becoming more aware of costs due to the high deductibles that most newer plans have, but at the same time, will they really have the ability to play one provider against the other in the future? Have a real choice. If the fed’s have their way, I wonder how much choice of even the procedures, much less the provider, will be in play for the typical patient five or ten years down the road. I promise not to inject politics into your blog, so I’ll stop there. Anyway, great to hear from you.

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