Carenet Health has identified seven key trends that willshape the healthcare landscape in 2023. Based on our 2023 Healthcare Consumer Engagement Forecast, this two-part blog highlights strategies that payers and providers are expected to prioritize as inflation and other factors create significant challenges.
Part One explored inflationary pressures that will continue to impact healthcare consumers and organizations, the need for innovative labor shortage solutions, and the growing importance of consumerism. In Part Two, we’ll look at member and patient demand for tools needed to simplify their journeys; improving the customer experience (CX); how health equity and social determinants of health can improve outcomes; and the importance of prioritizing mental health.
Digital Tools Will Drive Convenience and Personalized Care
In today’s digital world, patients and health plan members have spoken – they want tools like chat messaging, personalized videos, and wearable devices integrated with real-time support. Technological innovations like telehealth, remote patient monitoring, and digital front-door patient engagement platforms are reshaping care delivery and transforming customer expectations.
According to McKinsey& Company, nearly 40% of surveyed respondents said they would continue to use telehealth in the future. The virtual care channel will continue to play an important role in engagement as shifting resources and new technologies drive those seeking care away from traditional healthcare models. As digital solution trends grow, the user friendliness of these tools will increase if they are designed to work in partnership with human interpreters. By integrating tools like monitoring devices with real-time support, the connection between people and technology will become more human-centric, delivering on consumer demand for personalized care.
Within healthcare, increased digital convenience and more personalization will be driven by the convergence of engagement and alignment to consumer behavior. Stakeholders will need to prioritize the development of digital tools and platforms to help patients become better matched with the right category and location of care.
Customer Experience Excellence Will Boost Loyalty
Although the value of delivering a high-quality CX has long been a cornerstone of service industries, healthcare organizations are now recognizing the correlation between CX and customer loyalty. Studies have shown that hospitals perform better financially when patients report positive experiences. A Harvard Business Review survey showed that, after the peak of the pandemic, industry leaders rated improving CX as a top priority, even higher than lowering costs and increasing revenue.
Despite the many challenges that the industry has faced since 2020, CX has become a catalyst for change and is a focal point of provider and payer strategies to engage healthcare consumers. A recent study by The Lacek Group found that 80% of consumers indicated their brand loyalty was driven by expectations of a more personalized and connected experience.
Among the options available to bolster loyalty through an improved customer experience, outsourcing CX can reduce overall spending by lowering labor and operational costs. Health systems and plans can reduce costs related to recruiting, hiring, and training by outsourcing select CX functions.
Healthcare leaders will need to embrace and implement innovative ways to get ahead instead of just getting by, and organizations that view this less-than-optimal moment in time as an opportunity can successfully differentiate themselves from the competition.
Health Equity and Social Determinants of Health Will Be Prioritized
When access to care is challenged, historically marginalized populations are disproportionately impacted. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, addressing social determinants of health is critical to improving health outcomes and reducing inequities. Rural communities also face barriers to care access, including limited transportation options, a shortage of providers, and a lack of healthcare insurance.
When the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)released its Framework for Health Equity 2022-2032, it laid the ground work to address issues in data collection, standards alignment, and adoption of screening measures for hospitals to capture information on social determinants of health.
In the coming weeks and months, it will be critical for the healthcare industry to realize the effects of inflation and inequities in health literacy and the rising social impact of these factors. Using this information, industry leaders can help address the challenge with innovative digital solutions, proactive outreach, and high-quality customer care.
Employers Will Play a Role in Helping to Solve the Mental Health Crisis
The impact on behavioral health in the U.S. has been exacerbated by economic anxiety related to inflation, rising consumer costs, and job insecurity fears. According to a 2022 CNN poll, 90% of respondents believe that America is experiencing a mental health crisis, with half of those surveyed saying that someone in their family has recently experienced a severe mental health episode. Additionally, 20% of respondents rated their own mental health as either “fair” or “poor.”
While demand for mental health services is growing, access to professional help is limited. The National Council for Economic Well-Being cites lack of access to care as a significant cause for the crisis, as more than 40% of Americans who reported seeking mental health care couldn’t get it. Compounding the issue is the correlation between poor mental health and poor physical health as depression has been linked to a number of chronic illnesses, including diabetes and heart disease.
To tackle this challenge and close gaps in obtaining access to behavioral health care, continuing to educate the public about prioritizing mental health is key. Although governments worldwide are under investing in public mental health, there is some positive movement as the U.S. Surgeon General released a framework in 2022 for mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.
Employers will need to play a key role in this effort, as they will be called on to understand the costs associated with workplace mental health issues and respond by providing access to plans and tools that can help their employees who need behavioral health care.
Healthcare is emerging into a new normal that, in many ways, is far from that. It will take boldness to face a difficult scenario, creativity to solve problems, and engagement to build trust. Today’s consumers want to trust the companies who get their business, and they expect a quality experience in return.
By meeting the moment, healthcare organizations can provide consumers with the superior experience they want while helping them better navigate uncertain and ever-changing times.