The Patient of the Future
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It's like a waltz, Davis likes to say. You have to know when to lead and when to follow.
Change can come, but slowly, Stone warns.
"Getting societal pressure on changing behavior is not hard to do, but the benefits don't inure overnight," Stone says. "It takes time, but we have seen it in the last 15 years in smoking patterns. I don't think the reduction in smoking has gone down because those people who wanted to smoke suddenly got religion."
In the future, however, employers, health insurers, and government agencies will give people cold, hard cash for healthy behaviors.
Quit smoking, lose weight, join a gym, run a marathon? Ka-ching! There will be incentives for doctors, too, making the whole "I don't get paid to keep people well" argument moot.
Consumerism goes from fad to trend—to reality
The patient of the future demands to know how much each appointment, test, outpatient procedure, or hospital stay will cost them—down to the very last prescription pill. And they use price and quality data to make decisions about where they go for care.
The conventional wisdom is that patients don't understand quality data and they don't care what their treatment costs. And why should they? After all, either insurance pays for their healthcare or they use the emergency room as their primary source for care.
But the idea that patients will become engaged, informed consumers is here to stay, says Keckley. But are medical professionals and the healthcare industry in general prepared?
"No," Keckley says. "For the most part physicians especially are suspicious of this concept of consumerism."
But patients do want to know what their healthcare will cost—and they don't just want a doctor's bill or a hospital bill; they want to know what the total costs are, from drugs to devices, Keckley says. Healthcare reform will also affect this, swelling the numbers of people who have individual policies, which already stands at about 18 million. Many will choose high-deductible plans. Insurance companies and employers will drive change, too. They're saying to providers "you must provide this info," Keckley says.
"This is the beginning of a change," Keckley says. "It's at the bottom of that S curve, but it's a significant, sustainable trend, and increased numbers of end users will reflect these behaviors. It will grow ... We're past the novelty stage of this, and we're probably moving past early adopters. We're into early majority."
Indeed, a full 94% of respondents to Deloitte's consumer study said they believe that healthcare costs are a threat to their personal financial security.
"We're at a point where people on the street are voting with their pocketbooks and they're voting with their feet. It may not be the majority today that through their own behavior and their own purchases are forcing doctors and hospitals to behave differently, but I think that's generational," Keckley says.
This article appears in the September 2009 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.
Gienna Shaw is senior editor for marketing for HealthLeaders Media. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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