November 16, 2021
Health, Not Healthcare
The idea of “health” is too complicated, too fragmented. That isn’t going to work in an environment where expectations for simple, convenient and integrated experiences continue to grow. CVS is one example of a provider organization working to make health – and, by extension, the healthcare they provide – more accessible to patients consumers.
What it Means for Your Health System
“People often feel overwhelmed by the concept of ‘healthy.’”
Pause on that quote from the linked article, just for a moment.
Seriously. What the hell are we doing? We’ve overcomplicated healthcare to the point that people are “overwhelmed” by the idea of eating a salad and taking walking breaks. And they’re frustrated by it.
According to the latest American Consumer Satisfaction Index, healthcare – including ambulatory care, hospitals and insurance – retains the trust of the public but lags other industries in customer satisfaction. In fact, healthcare and hospitals reached their lowest index score in nearly two decades, per the study. (Health economist Jane Sarasohn-Kahn covered the study in a recent blog post worth reading.)
We all know consumers are frustrated by the fragmentation. Good news is that forward-thinking health enterprises are already bringing everything under one roof. That includes risk, care delivery, education, tech and health-related consumer goods.
And that’s why companies like CVS-Aetna are doing so well. They’re pushing hard on giving the public a reframed, integrated perspective on health while also finding the service lines and payment models to make it profitable. A retail chain buys a health insurance giant and now offers everything from urgent care to mental health services to renal care. And they’re marketing those services in a way that fits the customer journey.
Clever startups and health services companies are building technology platforms and care delivery models that are based on collaboration, interoperability and user experience.
On the business side, money and planning is going into integration so that control of the entire care continuum stays under that one roof. On Tuesday, Fierce Healthcare covered a recent survey from HFMA that found three-fifths of health systems are looking to bring more risk management in house by diving into Medicare Advantage. This approach, the article points out, parallels payers who have stepped into care delivery.
And finally, private equity has been – and looks ready to continue – pouring record money into healthcare in 2021. It’s a trend Paul Keckley reviews in his latest newsletter.
Time, energy and money are being deployed to integrate health(care). Each category of player has advantages in that work:
- PE has money, operational acumen and enthusiasm – they don’t have to drive change, they get to.
- Traditional providers have public trust based on proven expertise in care delivery and the medical acumen.
- Startups and health services are quick, flexible and have fresh thinking on technology and patient experience.
- Retail has consumer perspective and data, along with technological power. Moreover, people are already spending time in retail settings so it’s easy and familiar. And you can find a parking space at CVS.
There’s another fundamental difference that underpins the CVS ad campaign. Traditional healthcare providers see people as patients, whereas the new entrants and retail-based providers view them as consumer. Though hospitals are expanding beyond just offering sick care, the historical approach has been, “We know medicine. Come to us when you have a problem, we’ll take care of you.”
On the other hand, the underlying philosophy behind the CVS ad campaign is that a consumer-centric mindset puts more responsibility on people to care for themselves.
Whatever angle a provider organization is coming from, that patient-as-consumer must be the destination. Integrating the business and technology and risk management is the operational mechanism to do so, but the work must be built on a culture that prioritizes integration and experience.
Investor-backed providers have the flexibility of starting from scratch but lack the institutional knowledge; traditional providers have the institutional knowledge but have to retrofit the tools.
As you work to triangulate on the right solutions to streamline care and redefine “health,” here are some questions to ask about your organization’s culture in terms of innovation and integration to get the conversation rolling. These questions can lead to solutions that can help you render “health” an accessible concept, not one to fear.
- Do you think about things like “integration” and “transparency” in the context of CMS or other regulation? Or in the context of patient and provider experience?
- Do conversations about other categories of providers focus on how to defend against their encroachment or what can be learned from them?
- Similarly, does your approach lend itself to collaboration and partnership? Or does it insulate your organization?
- Do you check in regularly with clinical and back-office staff to learn about bottlenecks and hear their ideas?
- Practically, are you integrating processes and software?
- How long does it take you to test and evaluate a new system? Can you shorten that timeline?
- As a health service company or startup, do you have a clear story to tell traditional providers about how you can support existing systems? Do you understand the constraints they’re under?
- As a traditional provider, do you listen to the new entrants with an open mind rather than a concern about what can’t be done?
- Do you have educational and marketing materials that simplify and humanize you to your patients and that put them at the center of the story?
- Do you have people testing the experience patients and employees have when they interact with you?
This piece was originally published over the weekend in our Sunday Quick Think newsletter. Fill out the form to get that in your inbox every week.