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Five Lessons in Consumerism for Well-Being Programs

Healthcare research provides valuable insight for well-being programs.

Perhaps one of the most commonly cited signs of consumerism in healthcare is the reference now to consumers, not patients. However, this shift in vernacular is only the beginning. Use of the term consumer by nature centers around the power of choice.

People are no longer pawns of a system but active participants in it. And, their choices extend far beyond which provider to see. Consumerism is ultimately about having control over one’s own well-being. With this in mind, the well-being industry can learn from traditional healthcare and so too can those who shop for well-being programs.

Following are five healthcare consumerism trends that provide valuable lessons for well-being programs:

#1 – Personalization

The Trend:
The Institute of Healthcare Consumerism explains that today’s consumers increasingly expect a higher level of personalization in their healthcare experiences. This may manifest as tools or apps that provide recommendations based upon their information and activity. It may be about communicating with people via their channels of choice from emails to push notifications to direct mail and more.

Hyperpersonalization is facilitated by the ability to take data points from multiple sources like fitness trackers and claims to drive insights and recommendations. IHC suggests that giving people what they want in these ways is essential to satisfaction and loyalty.

The Takeaway:
Consumers are clearly debunking the myth that a one-size-fits-all approach can work. Instead, it’s more like one-size-fits-none. For a well-being program to be effective, it must address the varying needs of the consumers for whom it is intended. The more it speaks to them, the more likely they are to engage with it. Or, it is only personal well-being programs that can be relevant.

#2 – Consumer Satisfaction

The Trend:
Outcomes will – and should – always matter in healthcare but today’s consumers do not view these in a vacuum. Instead, it is the how as well as the what that contributes to their satisfaction.

In a 2014 McKinsey Consumer Health Insights survey, over 90 percent of people indicated some satisfaction with healthcare services. While outcomes were identified as the most important factor in this, when asked to identify what contributed to reported satisfaction, a broader picture emerged.

Things like provider empathy, being kept informed and even the physical environment in which care was received all received high marks. A 2015 McKinsey survey corroborated these findings as 53 percent of people ranked customer service as the most important thing they valued in healthcare companies – and in non-healthcare companies. Meeting expectations and simplifying life were also noted as points of value.

The Takeaway:
Consumers no longer focus solely on the final result. Instead, it is the experience from start to finish that matters. Well-being programs must facilitate positive outcomes but must do so in ways pleasing to consumers. The experience must be easy, appealing and organized so as to intrigue consumers and make them want to interact with it.

#3 – Technology & Online Tools

The Trend:
Not surprisingly, use of consumer technology in healthcare is growing. A 2015 Deloitte Survey of U.S. Health Care Consumers revealed a particular increase among people with chronic conditions. Use of tools to monitor or manage conditions rose from 22 to 39 percent from 2013 to 2015. Medication reminders and alerts saw an increase in usage here.

Also of note is a growing willingness to communicate electronically with providers as 21 percent reported they have done so and a whopping 72 percent reported an interest in doing so.

Millennials are leading the way in the increasing use of healthcare technologies but Gen Xers and Boomers alike are following suit.

The Takeaway:
Technology for technology’s sake is dead. Tools must be more than just cool new toys. They must provide actual value and purpose, like those that offer medication reminders. They must help people tackle hard problems like the management of chronic conditions. Well-being programs, therefore, must look beyond just offering workout tips or healthy recipes. In an industry oversaturated with resources, it is important to identify a relevant path to the right resources at the right time.

#4 – Engagement

The Trend:
Deloitte’s survey revealed that consumers with the most serious health issues are the ones who are engaging in their healthcare the most.

What form that engagement is taking depends upon the need. McKinsey’s 2015 survey showed that while consumers may be willing to receive vaccinations at retail locations or pharmacies, when it comes time for help with more serious needs, the options for help narrow. Thirty-seven percent of people were willing to get immunizations at retail locations or pharmacies while only 16 percent would look there for diabetes counseling and only 14 percent would trust such a source for support managing a chronic condition.

The Takeaway:
People with chronic conditions and other serious health issues not only need – but often want – help. Well-being programs that fail to address these needs will be rendered exclusionary, ineffective and outdated. Addressing the well-being needs of all people is a must. On a broader scale, engagement in this space must evolve beyond the one-and-done mentality that some fall back on with a rewards-only approach to action.

#5 – Trust

The Trend:
McKinsey’s 2014 survey asked consumers about storing and sharing their health information. Primary care providers were far and away the most trusted source for storing health information across all age groups. Health insurers came in at a very distant second followed by Google, Apple and finally employers.

After primary care providers, it was specialists, friends and family that people felt most comfortable sharing information with. Health insurers and employers were at the bottom of the list.

The Takeaway:
Consumer reluctance to store and share their sensitive health information with even their health insurers let alone their employers poses interesting engagement challenges for well-being programs. Brand trust will become paramount when choosing a program.

Consumers want to know who is receiving their information and trust that their personal privacy will be respected before they will engage.

A Future of Consumerism

Consumers’ influence in their well-being is here to stay – as it should. A well-being program is personal. It is all about consumers. It only stands to reason that it meets their needs.

As more people fully embrace the holistic nature innate in well-being, they will also logically seek out programs, providers and partners that do the same. It is only those programs that truly provide a holistic experience to consumers that will be used by them – and that will therefore move the needle of well-being in positive ways.

With consumers firmly in control of their health and well-being, programs that fail to provide a holistic experience will lose engaged consumers. It’s that simple.


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