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Healthcare in 2018: The Consumer-Driven Patient

Rethinking the delivery of healthcare.
Image © Benny Chan.
Image © Benny Chan.

As patients who seek healthcare and pursue wellness, we are also consumers, a fact long overlooked but now gaining favor with attentive healthcare providers. From treatment to infrastructure, the healthcare industry is experiencing a disruptive transformation triggered by medical advancements, new technologies, the push for personal customization/convenience, and a growing understanding of the patient as a consumer.

Embedded with a confidential client, a Fortune 500 health insurance company that also provides regional healthcare services, IA is currently engaged in two studies. Each focuses on a different mode and venue for delivering services to the same demographic—the growing population of age 65+ consumers, with an eye to rising seniors in the age 45-65 bracket. Although these studies look at the same demographic in very different settings—the medical center and the community healthcare outpost—they reveal that, as consumers, patients look for the same essential satisfiers as customers in a retail environment. High atop their list are proximity to home, an authentic customer-centric experience, personal engagement (know me and my requirements), relevant services when they are needed, and a welcoming and comforting ambience.

Major healthcare providers are beginning to focus on customer satisfaction and convenience—one-stop-shopping—to deliver medical care and  create wellness. We are all busy, pressed for time, and accustomed to personalized services and devices. We want that same level of service from our healthcare providers. Can I stop by and see the doctor on my way home, ask a question, or pick up a new prescription? To turn this into reality, savvy providers are creating neighborhood healthcare centers as well as community centers. The community centers offer a menu of wellness-focused activities (e.g., yoga, cooking classes for nutrition, lectures, etc.), maybe a juice bar or cafe for hanging out, and even childcare during your visit. With an almost club-like atmosphere and membership requirement, these venues make it easier to pursue wellness. Any combination of services may be offered or geared to a specific age group. Tailored for seniors, centers can provide the social interaction needed for good health that may wane in later life.

Often located in shopping centers or malls near your home, these outposts are delivering new ways to experience healthcare. You might shop with the family before your appointment (you’ll be texted when the doctor is ready), or send the kids to a movie during your examination. With access to your medical records and real-time connectivity to major medical centers, these outposts make staying healthy easier than ever before.

Onus IV Hydration in Denver. Photo © Frank Ooms.
Onus IV Hydration in Denver. Photo © Frank Ooms.

Moreover, the tone and atmosphere of healthcare delivery is changing. Whether at a major medical center or a neighborhood center, casual comfort and re-imagined consultation rooms take much of the stress out of your visit. Designed as comfortable consultation rooms with a relaxed, residential style, examination rooms no longer seem ominously medicinal as you chat with your healthcare professional. But if a more thorough examination is needed, the necessary equipment is there, hidden by a designer’s skill and accessed on demand. At your local hospital or medical center, retail outlets for browsing and shopping, along with a business center for your use, may complement the upscale lounge lobby. Your check-up, delivered in a more spa-like atmosphere, could be topped off in a relaxing sauna or with a massage.

The current tech-inspired design process that favors a hackable environment (e.g. one that allows users to revise to suit daily needs), sensitive to new trends and fundamentally flexible, bodes well for healthcare and its changing needs. Understanding that customers in both retail and healthcare settings comprise a variety of groups that demand solutions to both general and personal requirements is part of the designer’s art and expertise for creating deeply satisfying environments. With cues taken from retail approaches, responding to and measuring consumer/patient satisfaction while ultimately increasing retention and loyalty is now central to the success of healthcare delivery.

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