Millennials are turning the traditional healthcare delivery model on its head. Soon to be America’s largest generation, this powerfully influential group has grown up in a technology-powered consumer environment where transparency, rapid delivery and convenience are the norm. They’re now transferring these expectations to the healthcare industry with profound implications for healthcare providers and care outcomes.
But that’s not all. Millennial behavior also reflects consumers’ growing tendency to avoid or delay care because of concerns about cost. According to a West Health survey whose results were published earlier this year, 44 percent of patients skipped necessary medical care because of costs. Other studies like this CarePayment 20-20 study reported by Becker’s Healthcare show care avoidance as much higher – a staggering 64 percent. A potential outcome of these converging trends are higher healthcare costs for all and poorer healthcare outcomes for the Millennials.
Born between 1981 and 1996, this tech savvy generation of 75 million is about to overtake boomers as America’s largest generation. In a recent Becker’s Healthcare article, highlighting a report from Kaiser Health News, on the results of a recent patient survey, Kaiser noted that “there was a pronounced difference among age groups: 45 percent of 18- to 29-year olds had no primary-care provider, compared with 28 percent of those 30 to 49. 18 percent of those 50-64 and 12 percent for people aged 65 and older”.
Millennials are abandoning the old office-based primary care model, creating a dilemma for traditional health systems and hospitals – how to retain valuable patient relationships (and revenue) while maintaining the quality and continuity of care that differentiates their model from other, more consumer-friendly models such as urgent care and retail providers.
Some traditional healthcare providers are attempting to bridge the gap between the traditionally opaque price- and delivery- model in practice at most health systems and hospitals by hiring additional physicians to speed care delivery. They’re also employing technology, with patient portals and other digital tools that enable people to communicate with their doctors and make appointments via their smartphones and other devices. Some are exploring video visits. These efforts, while laudable, may not be comprehensive enough to meet the new reality.
This is a phenomenon that can’t be ignored because the competition for patients has never been more intense. According to a Washington Post story on the Kaiser article, “Many young adults are turning to a fast-growing constellation of alternatives: retail clinics carved out of drugstores or big box retail outlets; free-standing urgent care centers that tout evening and weekend hours; and online telemedicine sites that offer virtual visits without having to leave home. Unlike doctors’ offices, where charges are often opaque and disclosed only after services are rendered, many clinics and telemedicine sites post their prices.”
The gap between patient expectations and the traditional primary care delivery model is attracting a wide variety of new participants. Earlier this year, Walgreen’s introduced a new digital marketplace featuring 17 leading healthcare providers. This is just one example of many where the formerly siloed world of healthcare is breaking down, allowing innovators to seize the enormous economic opportunity that exists for healthcare providers who meet consumer demand for great care, convenience and a fair price that patients can live with.
Other, more noteworthy ventures like the recently approved merger between CVS and Aetna and the nascent collaboration between Amazon, JP Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway are adding fuel – and considerable anxiety – to the fire.
But the news is not all bad for traditional providers. The traditional primary-care delivery model offers patients something that can’t be achieved using many millennials’ fragmented approach to seeking care. The Kaiser story goes on to explain that this shift in consumer behavior can have a downside.
“A recent report in JAMA Internal Medicine found that nearly half of patients who sought treatment at an urgent care clinic for a cold, the flu or a similar respiratory ailment left with an unnecessary and potentially harmful prescription for antibiotics, compared with 17 percent of those seen in a doctor’s office. Antibiotics are useless against viruses and may expose patients to severe side effects with just a single dose.”
In other words, care that’s delivered on a per-event basis by an array of unrelated providers can’t match the continuity of care that is achievable when a patient receives holistic care within the context of a longer-term physician relationship. This represents a clear and compelling differentiator for traditional providers seeking to attract and retain patients. The question is, will these providers make the necessary modifications to their business models to meet consumer demand for convenience and transparency AND deliver superior care, characterized by a big-picture approach to wellness?
By embracing these principles and practices, traditional providers will not only attract and retain patients who are seeking care. They’ll have the opportunity to seize a sizeable share of the population that is avoiding care today. If they invest in the technology and processes to deliver financial engagement that includes pricing transparency, payment plans, easy-to-use self-service functionality, and personalized experiences, providers can and will capture many of the patients who see cost as an obstacle to care.
Adapting to the new reality requires a strategic approach centered around patients, whose loyalty now constitutes a provider’s most valuable asset. The initiative must engage stakeholders across the enterprise and leadership’s fearless commitment to breaking away from the old way of doing things. But by tackling the challenge methodically, health systems and hospitals can leverage their competitive advantage and meet patients where they want to be. This method includes the following components:
These are uncertain times for healthcare providers. Growing numbers of patients are seeking care in nontraditional settings, abandoning the primary physician model. New competitors with innovative, low-cost delivery models are proliferating. And patients’ financial burden for care is, as long promised, driving whether and where people get their care.
But, by leveraging technology to put patients back at the center of their care delivery model and improve operating efficiencies, providers can thrive. By leveraging superior, holistic care and innovating to embrace emerging technologies to deliver greater convenience and transparency, health systems and hospitals will earn the patient loyalty to ensure their long- term growth.
Kevin Fleming is the CEO of Loyale Healthcare.
Loyale Patient Financial Manager™ is a comprehensive patient financial engagement technology platform leveraging a suite of configurable solution components including predictive analytics, intelligent workflows, multiple patient financing vehicles, communications, payments, portals and other key capabilities.
Loyale Healthcare is committed to a mission of turning patient responsibility into lasting loyalty for its healthcare provider customers. Based in Lafayette, California, Loyale and its leadership team bring 27 years of expertise delivering leading financial engagement solutions for complex business environments. Loyale currently serves approximately 2,000 healthcare providers across 48 states. Loyale recently announced an Enterprise level strategic partnership with Parallon including deployment of its industry leading technology to all HCA hospitals and Physician Groups nationwide.