The Consumerization of Healthcare

HealthConsumersOnline_InfographiThe systemic change in US healthcare delivery has been called many things, but they all refer to one thing: the future of healthcare will be in the hands of the consumers. Today, consumers are better able to make choices about their healthcare needs, because the majority of medical information formerly held by a select group of people is now available to anyone with internet access. People can research conditions, symptoms, treatment options, and best practice information before even calling a doctor. This enables patients to take an active rather than traditionally passive role in their personal healthcare.

As the roles continue to change, the future consumer-driven healthcare system will most likely see drastic changes in three main areas:


In a new dynamic of healthcare, the patient visit will increasingly be outcome-based. The traditional fee-for-service model incentivizes activity rather than outcome, which means that patient results are low priority. In order to improve outcomes in healthcare, the way doctors communicate with their patients needs to change. Studies consistently find that health outcomes improve when patients better understand their physician and are a part of the treatment/management process.

A systematic review of patient communication interventions in clinical trials revealed that principal outcomes (effects of the intervention on the process of the consultation) favored the intervention groups in 74% of cases, and positive health outcomes (a positive effect on any health outcome) were found in 80% of cases, significantly so in 44%. (Griffin et al. 2004).


The healthcare system will become increasingly reliant on technology to improve outcomes and cut costs while increasing coverage. The US government fully supports the move to technology-driven healthcare, and is subsidizing hospitals that make the switch to electronic health records (EHRs) for Medicare/Medicaid patients, while penalizing those who do not, beginning in 2015.

The growth of mobile health in the past few years has been exponential.  Manhattan Research found that 62% of US physicians own a tablet in 2012, up from 31% in 2011, and 50% of tablet owning physicians have used their device at the point of care. Meanwhile, 90% of patients want to self-manage their healthcare leveraging technology (Accenture, 2012). As the goals and actions of the physician and patient align, technology can play a much greater role in reaching those goals.


Managed care reimbursement cuts are creating more industry competition for the patient’s dollar, which means physicians will have to start competing for those dollars. Up until now, the clinic visit hasn’t been based on much choice beyond location. Insurance dictates which doctors you can see, and whether the doctors are any good or priced fairly has been a total black box. All trends indicate that the current system will become a relic of the past. If patients are able to make a decision based off more than just insurance acceptance, they will likely choose the best doctor with the fairest price. Increasing demand for better price and quality can significantly improve the supply of hospitals and physicians who meet these criteria.

The consumerization of healthcare is just that – the consumers taking an active role in how healthcare delivery benefits them. The gears are shifting, and it is up to consumers to influence where they shift to.

Interactive Healthcare Marketing Needs To Get Innovative

Interactive Healthcare Marketing Needs To Get Innovative

Posted by Darika Ahrens on August 22, 20

A few years ago, a barrister told me a story about an open-and-shut court case involving a burglar caught red-handed by police as he was carrying a television through the window of a house he’d just broken into. After the evidence had been presented, the jury made a request – would the prosecution present the forensic evidence they’d taken from the scene tying the burglar to the crime? “It’s the CSI effect,” the barrister lamented. You see, the general populace has watched a lot of crime shows on TV and now think they’re experts in how and when legal evidence should be gathered and presented.

When it comes to health and well-being, there’s something even bigger than a top-rated TV show influencing consumers – the Google effect. We all turn to the Web at the first sign of a cough and are happily diagnosing or researching our ailments daily. There’s even a word for people who diagnose themselves mistakenly from the Web: “cyberchondriacs.”

As the classic connected “Gen Xer,” I’m constantly Googling symptoms and cures when I’m unwell. So despite my previously limited knowledge of marketing healthcare, I sought to answer these questions: Just how big is the digital opportunity for healthcare brands, and what are brands doing to take advantage?

The research showed what you’d expect. Opportunity = huge, execution = limited. Healthcare brands across pharma, medical devices, over-the-counter (OTC), and consumer health are spending conservatively (compared to both offline marketing and other industry sectors, such as financial services). We also picked up that there was a frustration in the lack of innovation taking place.

What do I mean by innovation? It’s not about jumping on the latest social media platform (*cough* Pinterest *cough*) but, as one interactive health marketer I spoke to described it, innovation is really about relevancy – understanding customers and servicing them in ways that suit them. For today’s customer, more and more, that means that customers need to be serviced with smart use of digital technologies and marketing practices.

One outstanding example we use in the report is a brand re-evaluating its classic search campaign. Product promotion was mapped to the wrong patient life-cycle phase. The brand was buying search ads and optimizing content educating customers on the illness. Evaluating customer behavior showed that consumers already relied on high-quality free information available online that the brand was wasting spend on competing with. What the consumer really needed to convert to a customer was to be able to locate a retailer easily while out and about on a mobile phone. The brand optimized mobile search to drive sales and saw a much better ROI.

As more customers, both consumer and professional, turn to the Web for health products and services, it makes sense that this is where brands in this space must follow.

What’s stopping them? Yeah, regulations for pharma/medical/OTC can be a barrier, but as one leading agency told us, “There’s almost nothing that pharma and healthcare can’t do; there’s just additional considerations and planning.” 

My new report, “Innovate Interactive Healthcare Marketing Without Rocking The Boat,” addresses interactive healthcare marketing in four ways;

  1. Provides research into the digital opportunity for health and wellness and some benchmarks on customer behavior and industry spend
  2. Clearly pinpoints the barriers (beyond the obvious) so that organizations can look at where and how they need to problem solve
  3. Recommends the three values healthcare needs to adopt today to activate innovation within their organization’s interactive marketing
  4. Provides a process and planning framework that digital marketers in this industry can use to develop their campaign strategies (we’ve even made this a downloadable planning matrix for you to use or adapt)

As always, a lot of the credit goes to those already innovating in the healthcare industry today who were willing to share their thoughts, learnings, ideas, and experiences. A big thank-you to those who contributed to the report: Across Health, British Medical Association, Cambridge BioMarketing, Digitas Health, Edelman Digital Health, GSW, Novartis, and Philips Healthcare.