What works and what does not work with healthcare consumerism

<![CDATA[Innumerable issues, including skyrocketing healthcare costs, have plagued the U.S. healthcare system. Many claim that healthcare consumerism is the answer to all these problems. Healthcare consumerism as they say will provide a free market that will make all costs and services related to the industry transparent.

This will, in turn, allow patients to choose the best care according to their needs and budgets. Many feel that this trend would also increase the quality of care and reduce costs as companies compete with each other to get the most patients.

Sounds Promising! But is it Really?

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Healthcare consumerism is being purported as the next biggest thing in the healthcare industry. Allowing the patient to have full control of what kind of care he wants and when he wants it will, according to many, be beneficial for both the patient and the industry as a whole. However, there are some hurdles one would need to think about before this can be achieved.

Patients and Not Consumers

Examination for cancer

Healthcare consumerism views patients as the end consumer. While this may work in most cases, there are some instances when a patient would just prefer to remain as a patient and expect to be healed by the doctor in charge rather than shop around for services. A patient in the ER would not want to go online and check the best services he can buy for his needs.

Rather, he would be willing to risk his life in the hands of the doctor who is treating him at the moment. The same goes for critically ill individuals or those who have suffered traumatic injuries. Healthcare consumerism would not work for these patients who are too sick to shop online for the best healthcare provider.

Profit Making Proposition

Woman medical professional analyzing a patient's xray, example, radiology, oncology, disease, prevention, diagnosis.

Some believe that healthcare consumerism may set off another dangerous trend wherein healthcare providers start cashing in on terminally ill patients in order to make a quick buck or two. A patient on the deathbed would be willing to pay anything and everything to remain alive. Many claim that these individuals will become easy targets for companies on the lookout to earn big money instead of helping save lives.

Strained Patient-Doctor Relationship

close up of blood extraction in lab

Healthcare consumerism can to an extent, strain the relationship between the doctor and patient, as claimed by many providers. Physicians typically spend about 17 minutes per patient on an average given their busy schedule. Putting the patient in charge would force these doctors to spend more time with each patient, with a major portion of this time devoted to clearing misconceptions that the patient may have about a particular medication, treatment or procedure. In certain cases, the patient may not see eye to eye with the doctor with regards to the treatment plan or may demand information that the latter is not willing to divulge. This can cause their relationship to become strained, thus affecting the quality of care provided in the long run.

Ways to adopt healthcare consumerism in a mutually beneficial manner

Group of doctors checking an MR exposure

Studies have revealed that the best possible solution to this scenario will aim at having a managed form of healthcare consumerism aka managed consumerism. This form of consumerism will focus consumer driven health care, but would give equal focus to provider centric managed competition.

Accordingly, here are some trends that highlight this very fact and will lead to a rapid increase in healthcare consumerism in the coming years.

Legislation backed options and transparency

hands of surgeons and patient's leg during the operation

Many governments are in the process of creating healthcare insurance exchanges that will function as virtual healthcare menus. These insurance exchanges will offer services like insurance premiums, direct payment options and out of pocket co-pays to providers in a manner that is transparent for the end consumer.

Entry of Private Players in the Transparency game

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While government owned agencies have always published information about their insurance plans and services, private companies are only now beginning to offer information in a more transparent manner to the end consumer. These companies have only recently, started publishing information about their providers and paid claims data. This, in turn, would help consumers make the right choice when it comes to choosing the best quality care for their needs.

Consumer Driven Care in Hospitals

Doctor and nurse discussing diagnosis of the patient

As consumers become more and more knowledgeable about the services they are buying, the hospitals treating them will be urged to provide consumer driven care focusing on customized treatment options for individual patients. The recent lot of consumers are also more healthcare savvy and as such, better at taking the right healthcare decisions. Given enough time, this will force hospitals and other facilities to start focusing more on what the consumer wants, rather than what they think will be right for the customer.

Consumerism in healthcare is being considered as a promising trend aimed at delivering higher quality care to the end patient. If dealt with in the right manner, it could potentially change the way the healthcare industry works.]]>

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