A Logic Exercise: Consumerism, Patient Centricity, and Patient Experience

Bob Abrahamson, Chief Marketing Officer

Mind Expansiion

I took Aristotelian and Propositional Logic my senior year at Boston College. The title sounded daunting but if you learned a handful of syllogisms expressed as mathematical equations – basically if/then statements – the class was pretty easy. (My then aged professor is probably spinning in his grave over that definition). It did pay some dividends, however, when I played around in SQL as a layman marketeer. And, recently, the construct is helping me come to grasp with how to best integrate evolving healthcare consumerism concerns with the requirements of patient centricity.

All of Us are Consumers

In my lifetime (proud to be a boomer), technology has flipped the script for consumers. Mass Marketing evolved to Direct which is increasingly 1:1 Digital where the consumer can dictate the terms – what, when, where. I can personalize a product from as big as car down to a pair of jeans; I can shop in a store, on my phone, at home, on the road, day or night and get delivery the next day. I choose how to communicate – voice, text, email, digital assistant – and how to pay – cash (hardly), check (occasionally), EFT (more likely), Venmo.  

The world is increasingly competitive with lower barriers to entry for new sellers. Companies of all stripes – B2C, B2B, B2B2C, must work harder across all channels to cut through the noise. It’s incumbent to “meet the [insert noun here] where they are” (I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard/saw this in marketing materials) lest someone else grab the attention and market share before you. Yet one should never lose sight of the fact that at its core a company needs to be offering a product or service of value; solving some problem or making life better for their target customers. Snarkiness aside, technological advances have expanded the choices available to consumers in just about every realm of their lives.

Some of Us are Patients

Yes, eventually all of us will be patients. And, for those managing a chronic condition being a patient could be a long-lasting or permanent state.  When you are a patient, you have unique needs. You are now a subset of consumers.  Therefore, While All Patients Are Consumers Not All Consumers Are Patients.  And here is where I believe we can run into trouble by equating Healthcare Consumerism with Patient Centricity.  They are NOT necessarily at odds; they are just different. It’s why we cannot lose focus of Patient Experience while addressing the rising demand of consumerism. For example, let’s look at Health Literacy.

One definition I like which you can find here states health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information needed to make appropriate health decisions. Despite the use of the term “basic” in the definition, health literacy is complex. Even under normal circumstances, when in the Healthcare Consumer state, levels of health literacy are variable. My wife has multiple degrees including an RN and her health literacy is off the charts if she is addressing a diagnosis or treatment option.  Yet, I had to step her through enrolling in a health plan when she recently switched jobs. She had trouble wading through the forms. It’s not a measure of intelligence but of familiarity.

And, even though my wife has high health literacy regarding E&M types of data, in the event she becomes a patient, relating to her as a nurse may not be appropriate. She would need to be evaluated upon her needs as to what she can process as a patient. That may or may not include the medical jargon. Again, the focus has to be patient engagement not consumer engagement.

Healthcare Consumerism, Patient Centricity, and Digital Health Technology

So, what does this mean regarding the application of Health Technology and the ongoing Digital Transformation across health systems today?  We must be mindful that as we invest in technologies to meet the evolving expectations/experiences of today’s consumers, who are being asked to take on more financial burden, we don’t ignore the dictates of patient experience for people who may be more vulnerable or at lower capacity.

For example, most people seem addicted to their personal devices. Tablets at the bedside for entertainment and education seemingly match the content consumption preferences of today’s consumer. This is an option pCare does provide. However, it is not the one we solely recommend. For the moment in care, for the patient and family, the television emerges most often as delivering the optimal patient experience. This does not have to be an either/or decision yet budget limitations may limit what can be offered. We need to provide the best solution which will not always be the shiniest object in the toolkit.

Patient centricity is the foundation of pCare’s success and had served us, our healthcare organization clients, and millions of patients and providers well for over seven decades. Patient Centricity demands the intelligent rollout of new technologies. And it is why we continue to maintain onsite staff and a call center that answers thousands of patient inquiries a year. Our technology is not hard to use but it is being accessed by people who are not at the top of their game in an unfamiliar environment who might need a little help to find their favorite program, order meal, turn down the lighting, or make a video call. pCare takes that on so the hospital staff doesn’t have to and because we understand how to provide a great patient experience in the moment.  

The point is that the promise of digital transformation to add efficiency to the care process can and must be achieved with an appreciation of what is right for the patient not the consumer. It has driven pCare for the past seven decades as well as leading health systems in the nation today. We look forward to continuing the journey with you.

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