From the January/February 2021 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
Historically, consumers haven’t been able to shop for healthcare the same way they shop for virtually any other product or service in a consumer-based economy. Consumers haven’t been trained to compare the best prices for their healthcare provider because they previously haven’t had upfront access to pricing information.
Consumers need two pieces of information to make the best decisions about their healthcare: price and quality. These two factors are often conflated; we tend to assume (sometimes falsely) that the more expensive something is, the higher its quality. That’s certainly not always the case in healthcare, but when it comes to making a decision about who to trust with their health, consumers are willing to pay a premium (if they can afford to) in exchange for quality care.
That’s why presenting both pieces of information is so critical. Once accurate, easy-to-read pricing information is readily available, price will become yet another factor that helps consumers make informed decisions about healthcare services and providers. When consumers can compare prices between providers, providers will then need to justify why their price differs from the provider across town (i.e. demonstrate quality).
The consumer revolution will continue
Whether it’s ordering take-out from an app or visiting the doctor virtually, consumers have spent the past year expecting the institutions they interact with to provide digital, easy-to-use experiences. Tasks like booking appointments, paying bills and contacting customer support with questions should be simple.
When selecting a provider, consumers will consider a variety of factors, including quality, cost, transparency and user experience. The user experience spans the entire interaction with the provider, from booking an appointment through to finalizing payment. Expecting a smooth, easy experience isn’t going to change once the vaccine rolls out. Providers who aren’t willing to provide strong customer support throughout the treatment process won’t retain their patients.
Finally, as we settle into a post-COVID world and once insurers aren’t waiving costs as a courtesy, the cost burden is going to shift back to the employer and patient/consumer. After such an unprecedented year, and considering how drastically it affected healthcare, consumers won’t be willing to return to rising prices, frustrating bills and lack of transparency. They will demand easy-to-understand billing practices that allow them to take control of their healthcare spending.