The Three E’s of Health Care Consumerism

FAIRFAX, Va. — ICF International, based in Fairfax, released a new white paper entitled the Three E’s of Healthcare Consumerism: Empathy, Engagement, Empowerment in order to outline a framework for understanding and applying consumerism concepts to health care business.
Authored by Alane Bearder, senior manager of strategic communications and marketing at ICF international; Mary Carter, principal of strategic communications and marketing at ICF International; and Anjana Harve, vice president of information technology at the specialty biopharmaceutical company Shire, the study suggests that evolving consumer expectations, shifting cost structures and health care reform are causing a change in health care consumerism.
“The combination of these three elements results in an ecosystem of health care consumerism that positions your organization for competitive advantage in an ever-changing environment,” the paper reported.
Empathy can be applied through research, the paper stated. Health care providers should conduct focus groups and in-depth interviews to gain insight from prospective or current patients. Literature reviews and environmental scans can also prove to be beneficial.
Creating targeted personas, which combine demographic, psychographic, geographic and behavioral inputs acquired through audience research, can help a health care provider test how consumers will respond to health care messages. Additionally, consumer ambassadors within an organization can strengthen customer service.
“Although individual health care providers interact with consumers directly, not all providers excel at demonstrating empathy. A number of training programs have been developed that focus on building this trait, improving patient relations and incorporating not only clinical research, but behavioral and psychographic research with patient groups,” the paper reported. “With the rise of consumerism, more opportunities have merged for provider organizations to listen, understand and respond to consumer needs.”
Practicing engagement and ongoing interaction with patients is another important tool in connecting with consumer needs. Health care providers should implement multifaceted plans for engagement and also track patient’s experiences to identify future engagement opportunities.
“Health care consumerism is exemplified by the move to a two-way conversation where both parties have a voice,” the paper stated. “This concept of engagement not only assumes proactive involvement, but also requires the health companies and consumers maintain an ongoing connection.”
Finally, empowerment of patients should be practiced through health care transparency and providing tools to support consumer choices. This increases positive patient experiences while also promoting an understandable health care system.
“Serious time and attention among providers, health insurers and pharmaceutical companies has been devoted to creating tools and resources that help individuals make informed health care choices,” the paper stated. “The trick is getting consumers to use them.”