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Payers and Providers Must Mimic Amazon with Rising Healthcare Consumerism

Insights from John Erwin, CEO
Carenet Health

In a recent journal article from Oliver Wyman Health, the authors state that healthcare payers and providers today don’t have to be Amazon. They just have to get people to like them.

It’s a nice sentiment and one that likely had more than a few executives breathing a small sigh of relief. With outsiders like Amazon and Walmart making strategic moves into the healthcare arena, the conventional system’s leaders are already on edge.

But I’d argue that, in this rare instance, the Oliver Wyman article got it wrong.

Based on what we’re seeing out in the field with our clients, and as we keep tabs on the rising tide of healthcare consumerism, it’s obvious that providers and payers must, in fact, be more like Amazon.

That’s because companies like Amazon, or Netflix, or Uber—those are just three of the many innovators in consumer experience we should be watching—have set the bar high for what consumers should expect. And those same consumers need health insurance and healthcare. And they’re beginning to wonder why they can’t get that kind of experience here.

Consumers have seen the new world, and they won’t be going back. 

When we think of exceptional consumer experience, here are some of the factors we should be considering in healthcare—all of which are being refined outside of our industry:

Data-driven personalization and recommendations

We talk about the value of data all the time in healthcare, but seldom do we talk about how it can impact the patient or health plan member engagement experience. Why shouldn’t we be able to anticipate what healthcare consumers might need next? Why shouldn’t we be able to understand what other information or engagement Joe Smith might be interested in, since he called about knee replacement out-of-pocket costs last week?

Just like Amazon remembers you each time you visit, and makes suggestions based on your history, we should be able to do this in healthcare (within the limits of data privacy, of course). Think how personal and relevant we can make wellness coaching and care management. Think of all the hospital admissions and readmissions we can prevent. And just think about how those tactics could limit frustration and drive long-lasting trust.

Immediacy and convenience

With new innovations in telehealth seemingly arriving every day, there’s no reason why we can’t offer consumers convenient, 24x7x365 access to triaged care via innovative telehealth options and virtual clinics. There’s no reason consumers can’t have the same kind of experience they have when they want new music to download: A consumer has a need. They gain easy access to customized recommendations. They get what they want (whether that’s a song or at-home treatment information for a sinus infection). And it’s all a click, text or call away.


Healthcare consumers should be able to communicate their preferences to providers and payers once—and have that information stored and carried across all enterprise touchpoints. They should be able to tell us to email them only once a month, after 7 p.m., with only this kind of information. And when they change their mind, updating the data should be as easy as checking boxes via an online subscription center.

These are just a few of the examples; there are many more. And yes, of course healthcare is complex. Of course we’re dealing with life and death consequences. But consumers are changing, and we’d all be smart to find ways to adapt quickly.

The reward will be evident in increased satisfaction and loyalty—and ultimately, in healthier individuals and populations, better care outcomes and reduced costs.

I have no doubt we’re up to the challenge.