Saturday, December 14, 2013

The great healthcare experiment; will consumers buy on value or price?

It’s the great healthcare experiment really when you stop and think about it.  Today, thousands of individuals are going to public and in some cases private exchanges to purchase health insurance for themselves and families. Different levels of plans, varied coverage’s, deductibles and copays with open or limited networks, drug benefits etc.

So the healthcare consumer is now making the grand choice. Will they choose value by what they perceive based on experience, relationship and no real outcomes data to make a rational decision to keep the doctors and hospitals in their network? Or, will the healthcare consumer now shopper for care, decide to choose by price and consider value as a given among all providers.

There probably at this point no definitive answer to the question. The signs are all around that healthcare is evolving to a semi-retail market.  And the decision now facing healthcare consumers of choosing healthcare via insurance by value or price will only accelerate change.

When an individual is facing a decision with multiple price options, they will exhibit consumeristic behaviors and shop on price when all else is perceived as equal.  And healthcare for all intent purposes, is the ultimate (and pardon my use of a sports analogy, just can’t help myself) example of league parity in the minds of consumers.   Seen one doctor, seen one hospital, and seen them all.  For years healthcare providers have offered up platitudes of world class care, best doctors, high tech, Centers of Excellence and so on, that value is totally undifferentiated. In the absence of information, markets like nature abhor a vacuum. Price fills the void.

Now that the barn door is open and no getting the horse back in, what can a healthcare provider do? No simple answer this time around. Healthcare consumerism is a new phenomenon in healthcare. To adjust to that seismic shift, the healthcare provider regardless of type will now need to get serious about brand, outcomes, value, experience and price.  Total transparency really.

Oh and one other thing, the conversation with the healthcare consumer and newly insured is going to have to change from just stating that we are the best, to here’s why we are the best and what you are the best at.  Can’t be great at everything and the healthcare consumer already knows.

This is going to be a struggle for most healthcare providers.  It will be as much about changing internally as externally.  Going from being in control of the process, to being subjected to the needs and wants of consumers on a value, quality and price basis is not an easy transition.  Some will make and others will fail.  That’s life. That’s the nature of markets.

Take a look at the marketing strategy and organizational readiness as well as the consultants that you hire. Are they telling you here is your best customer go forth and fill the beds, or are they preparing you to be a responsive healthcare consumer-centric organization in how you approach the market and win the confidence and dollars of the new healthcare consumer?

It’s the great experiment; healthcare choice purchased on value or price. Something tells me that price will win the day. The horses are out of the barn.

Michael J. Krivich, MHA, FACHE, PCM, is an internationally followed healthcare marketing blogger with over 5,000 monthly pages views read in over 52 countries worldwide on Healthcare Marketing Matters. These views are my own. He is founder of the michael J group, a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association.  Like us on facebook at the michael J group, and connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter.


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hfma said...

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