Are You A Healthcare Consumer?


Blog post by Joe Babaian

The pharma pricing system was not built on the idea of consumer engagement. It was built… on market efficiencies. It was not built on the premise of consumerism.

~ Heather Bresch, CEO Mylan

Heather’s comment is specific to pharma but it’s emblematic of the entire healthcare system as we now know it. We have talked this topic into the ground in many regards – but I argue that consumerism in healthcare is continuously evolving and we must continue to engage if we wish to shape the direction to come.

I won’t be arguing that patients are or are not consumers since that’s an issue of semantics and is dependent on access, need, environment, and cost. We can find support for both arguments all around us. An interesting take is from Modern Healthcare’s CEO Power Panel survey, where we find the prevailing CEO definition of healthcare consumerism as a combination of factors:

  • Increased attention to customer satisfaction and feedback
  • Improved convenience
  • Greater quality transparency
  • Customer-centered design of facilities or technology offerings
  • Price transparency

None of these factors shift healthcare in a direction that is troubling – just the opposite, any engaged person or patient in the healthcare arena can readily find the value in these factors. None of them point to a dramatic (and sometimes feared) “Amazoning of healthcare” which is one of the measuring sticks we use as a comparison.


Even with varied definitions of consumerism in healthcare, the growth is seen here. “Rapidly” means stakeholders are seeing the directional change even as we are not sure what or where we are headed! It’s up to us to direct, move, and edit the journey.

A telling example showing which definition of consumerism is impacting the practice of healthcare is seen here. Clearly, consumer satisfaction and feedback are driving the practice of healthcare for many providers and organizations. The question is found in the actual practice of healthcare changes occurring in response to this top definition. Is a deep understanding of patient experience driving the changes or a more superficial wish to have a four-star review a la Amazon? Buying and being happy with a toaster still doesn’t equate to a truly positive patient experience.


Where do we go from here: are you a healthcare consumer? Perhaps we should define healthcare consumerism by how healthcare is changing to embrace patient experience and understanding the social determinants of health that impact this and all other discussions in healthcare.

Let’s remember that these discussions must not take place in a vacuum insulated from the real-world experiences of the patients themselves. If the consumerism discussion isn’t informed by our latest understanding of patient experience, healthcare access via the social determinants lens, regulations, market design, and changing patterns of use, we aren’t having a discussion worth having!

I’m excited to have you help answer the question, “Are You A Healthcare Consumer?” Please join us Tuesday, April 23, 2019, at 8:30 pm ET (for your local time click here) as we discuss the following topics:

  • T1: How does a consumerism model advance or hinder the success of the healthcare system and patients?
  • T2: What approaches to healthcare consumerism are best? Worst?
  • T3: How should the healthcare system evolve to embrace the best of consumerism while recognizing that many healthcare choices aren’t choices at all?
  • T4: What are your experiences when using healthcare as a consumer vs healthcare as a patient?


Further Resources:

Castellucci, Maria. “Hospitals and Health Plans Are Increasingly Investing in Consumer-Oriented Services to Stay Competitive.” Modern Healthcare, December 9, 2017.

Comstock, Jonah. “Tips for Hospitals to Succeed in the Age of Consumerism.” Healthcare IT News, February 14, 2018.

Coughlin, Sheryl, David Roberts, Kenneth O’Neill, and Peter Brooks. “Looking to Tomorrow’s Healthcare Today: A Participatory Health Perspective.” Internal Medicine Journal 48, no. 1 (n.d.): 92–96.

DataPath. “What Is Healthcare Consumerism and How Does It Affect Healthcare?” DataPath, Inc. (blog), September 20, 2017.

Jain, Sachin. “The Type of Consumerism Healthcare Really Needs,” April 17, 2018.

John Santilli, M. B. A. “Healthcare Trends for 2018,” February 16, 2018.

Lagasse, Jeff. “Consumerism Is Driving Patients to Find Healthcare Providers Online.” Healthcare Finance News, November 8, 2017.

———. “Healthcare Consumerism: What Does It Really Look Like?,” April 26, 2018.

LaPointe, Jacqueline. “Price Transparency Crucial to Healthcare Consumerism Success.” RevCycleIntelligence, March 26, 2018.

Osei-Frimpong, Kofi, Alan Wilson, and Fred Lemke. “Patient Co-Creation Activities in Healthcare Service Delivery at the Micro Level: The Influence of Online Access to Healthcare Information.” Technological Forecasting and Social Change 126 (January 1, 2018): 14–27.

Robbins, Ken. “9 Consumerism Trends That Will Dominate Health Care Marketing in 2018,” December 20, 2017.

Sahadevan, Robert. “Consumerism in Health Care: Personalized Interventions.” NEJM Catalyst, January 11, 2018.

Walker, Brent. “3 Healthcare Consumerism Trends to Watch,” August 22, 2017.

Image Credit: Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash / Unsplash grants you an irrevocable, nonexclusive, worldwide copyright license to download, copy, modify, distribute, perform, and use photos from Unsplash for free, including for commercial purposes, without permission from or attributing the photographer or Unsplash.

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