Health Care Consumerism and Its Impact on Care

Consumerism, at is basic level, means to protect and promote the interest of the consumer. Health care has consumerism just like any other industry. And it impacts the way health care is looked at and the way it is delivered. This article explains what health care consumerism is and how it might improve the way you receive health care services. 

What is Health Care Consumerism?

As health care stands in the United States today, the system is provider-driven. Providers include health care professionals but entities like hospitals and insurance companies also fall into this category. If it were more focused on the consumer, the health care system would expect people to understand the care they receive and be a more active participant in receiving that care. Since it is provider-focused, people often find it hard to manage their own health information and to understand why they receive the services they do.

Health Care Consumerism Today

Since the advent of the health care consumer in the 1930s, people have made informed health care decisions with the information they have on hand. And in more recent years, things like research, patient advocacy, and creating better relationships with patients and family members has increased health care consumerism. Other factors like quality of care from your medical professional, shared procedure pricing, and ratings of your medical professional have increased health care consumerism.

In 2010, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) was funded by Congress. Its mission is to help people get more involved with their own health care through research. PCORI funds studies that look at outcomes and compare health options to determine if they are suitable for people. 

The basic premise of these studies is that the consumer and the provider have to participate in each step of the process. If not, then it becomes difficult to achieve the more effective, patient-centered health care system desired.

Ways to Achieve Health Care Consumerism

One of the key ways to put health care in the hands of the consumer is getting providers to provide the information and tools needed to do so. Making a list of self-pay pricing available to a consumer is one example. 

The price that providers charge insurance companies in order to do a procedure is actually higher than if the person getting it chose to pay cash for it directly. People often assume that they have to go through their insurance to get health care service. But being transparent about the price charged gives the person a choice. It can empower them and save money at the same time.

Health care as it stands now is also not very convenient. Almost every other aspect of life has some convienience built into it to help make getting the task done easier. Like many businesses, health care is designed around 9 to 5 working hours even though that’s not how health actually works. So providing features like online live chat, extended hours, and a nurse’s line can help make the health care experience more patient-centered.

Relationships matter in Health care

Health care relies on relationships just as much as any other business does. To create a good relationship, health care providers have to be willing to put their patients first. This means listening to concerns and giving the patient the best office visit experience possible beyond simply treating the issue at hand.

How does Health Care Consumerism Impact Care?

As health care costs continue to be high, more consumers are becoming increasingly aware of what their insurance plans and coverage actually offer them. People want to control and manage costs related to their health care as much as possible to avoid expensive surprises. In a TransUnion health care consumer survey, approximately 62% of people said that knowing their out-of-pocket costs ahead of time impacted how likely they were to pursue treatment. And just 49% of people say that they were given enough information about what they are financially responsible for in a medical bill. 

The survey also found that participants were increasingly worried about the costs they might incur as a result of getting treatment and it impacted who they sought treatment from.

Health Care Consumerism in Review

Health care is ever evolving. It’s also complicated. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. Understanding what health care consumerism is helps. It turns out that by being active participants and following crucial advice, getting health care services does not have to be as complicated as it seems.