Healthcare Changes:

What the consumerism trend means for patients and providers


Healthcare across the United States continues to experience monumental change. Providers face enormous pressure to accommodate this change, from the restructuring of payment models to the upward trend of healthcare consumerism.

Meanwhile, increased transparency, expanded access to information, evolving technology, and other industry pressures are fundamentally altering the healthcare landscape. Through this evolution, healthcare providers who embrace technology will connect their patients by delivering an experience that is more conversational and affordable.

Like customers in other industries, such as retail (Amazon), entertainment (Netflix), and transportation (Uber), consumers of healthcare feel empowered and are reacting to the desire and need for on-demand access. With the expansion of the Internet of Things, mobile capabilities and big data, the ability to transform operations and keep pace with the explosion of digital applications is a market differentiator, especially for patient care.

The pace of transformation is only accelerating. To keep up, leaders of health systems and medical groups across the country need to shift from the traditional models of care and develop new ways to implement effective technology. To be successful, they must enhance consumer connectivity, learn how to digitize the patient journey and listen to what the consumer really wants.

Competition for healthcare providers

Early adopters in a variety of industries (ie. Amazon, Apple) are vying for patient loyalty in the healthcare space, an area traditionally owned by health systems. Additionally, retailers like CVS, Walgreens and Walmart are adding healthcare services and clinics to connect with retail customers beyond their bricks-and-mortar stores. This disruption has prompted healthcare organizations to engage with patients in real time while leveraging data analytics to gain insights into their choices. If healthcare organizations do not evolve and improve patient connectivity, these early adopters will make the change for us.  

The shift from “fee-for-service” to “values-based” payment models

Progressive providers have steered away from the fee-for-service payment model, which rewards physicians based on the number and type of procedures and treatments they prescribe rather than on the health outcomes they achieve, to a value-based model. Experience has shown that benefits accrue to healthcare systems that embrace value-based care, which is directly linked to high-quality service and improved clinical outcomes for individual patients as well as to better health of population segments. It enforces a proactive approach to care delivery, as opposed to the reactive approach of years past.

Factors that drive today’s healthcare consumers

Today, patients have higher expectations and are more interested in engaging in their own health and wellness. The developments in technology and demand for expanded access to information and services online are affecting the healthcare industry.

Just as consumers expect to book a hotel room or check in for a flight on their phones, they also expect healthcare to be accessible from the palm of their hand.

In healthcare, technology can encompass a variety of areas—infrastructure, electronic health records, clinical integration, mobile apps and telemedicine. This evolution must be informed by strategic insights that are meaningful—such as convenience, access to care and ease of information use—to patients, providers and employees alike. Employers are also recognizing this change and are building relationships with health systems who have these capabilities and are adopting these technologies.

By offering online appointment scheduling, communicating via text message, and employing devices that patients already use every day, hospitals are better positioned to engage and interact in ways that help patients take control of managing their own health and wellness, ultimately meeting their expectations of convenience and on-demand access. This is an area in which Ochsner has made investments and has resulted in more than 400,000 online appointments. This approach is a game changer in the way healthcare decisions will be made in the future.

How hospitals are meeting demands

As part of Ochsner’s patient-centered culture, the voice of customer drives our efforts around convenience. Whether it’s through offering online appointments and messaging via MyOchsner patient portal and same day access with locations close to home, or introducing telemedicine and digital medicine programs, these efforts enable an opportunity to revolutionize healthcare.

Ochsner has deeply integrated technology into our healthcare ecosystem, making significant investments in this area to support our position as a national destination center for the most complex patients. We have shifted from digitizing health records in 2011 to integrating adopting new technologies that use data to create population wellness management programs, predictive modeling and patient-centered solutions. We’ve increased transparency through Open Notes so that patients have the ability read their physician notes within their electronic medical record. More importantly, we explore ways to ensure that the needs of our patients and staff are met to simultaneously improve operations, address pain points and rethink the patient experience.

We created innovationOchsner (iO), an innovation lab which concentrates on solving some of the most pressing healthcare challenges we face. In the last few years, iO has designed interventions and digital medicine programs that focus on improving the outcomes of our patients. We have taken on chronic disease – including hypertension, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). For example, with more than 4,000 patients enrolled in our Hypertension Digital Medicine Program, blood pressure was successfully controlled in 71 percent of previously uncontrolled patients within the first 90 days including demonstrated improvements in diet, patient engagement and satisfaction. These diseases affect our families, our friends and our neighbors every day.  As the largest health system in the Gulf South, we must be relentless about solving them.

We are utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) to predict patient deterioration in some units outside of intensive care. During a pilot program in those units, we’ve seen a 44 percent reduction in adverse events.

Regardless of the expansion in technology occurring and the impact it has on the industry, innovative healthcare systems such as Mayo Clinic, Kaiser Permanente and Ochsner must continue to serve as pioneers in developing new care delivery options. We are catalysts for increased innovation in the healthcare space through investment, support, and an environment in which to experiment with new options.

Other health systems must take up the effort as well by exploring innovative opportunities, strengthening strategic partnerships, and expanding telemedicine to deliver increasingly robust offerings. We all must continue to disrupt ourselves and proactively integrate innovative change before we get disrupted by others. In doing so, we are leading the future of healthcare so that patients can benefit and live happier and healthier lives.

Warner Thomas is president and CEO of Ochsner Health System, Louisiana’s largest non-profit academic health system and its largest private employer. Under Thomas’ leadership, Ochsner has expanded across Louisiana and the Gulf South to 40 owned, managed and affiliated hospitals and specialty hospitals and more than 100 health centers and urgent care centers. Ochsner employs nearly 25,000 employees and over 4,500 employed and affiliated physicians in over 90 medical specialties and subspecialties, caring for patients from all 50 states and more than 60 countries worldwide each year.