The rise of empowered healthcare consumers and its impact on the healthcare industry
Ready to become partners in their own health, more and more people are now turning to the Internet to make their health decisions. The emergence of digitally empowered healthcare consumers has transformed the dynamics of the healthcare industry.
Why changing consumer decision making behaviour has become a major influencer in healthcare?
Healthcare consumers i.e. the patients today are digitally empowered and take advantage of online processes, health portals, social media channels, review websites and physician web pages to make their health decisions. Whenever and wherever required, people instinctively turn to the Internet for not only referring to everyday medical information but also for diagnosing their health conditions. This new emerging category of healthcare consumer is slowly redefining the physician-patient relationship.
A better patient experience now starts with a better online experience
As the world is connected through the Internet today, it’s quite hard to understate the importance of online patient experiences. Driven by the excellent online customer experiences they have had with services in other industries, healthcare consumers now have an inclination for the same in healthcare, as well. Digital patient engagement is the foundation for building positive patient relationships. Providers who use digital media for communication and provide mobile health solutions are preferred by consumers over the others who are sluggish digital adapters.
According to a study at the Pew Research Center:
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- In the US, 70 percent of Internet users looked online for health information in 2012.
- Of them, 30 percent specifically searched for reviews on rating sites, where anyone can write anything under a near guarantee of anonymity.
- More than 700,000 physicians are listed on Vitals.com, the largest of the patient review sites, which attracts more than 13 million visitors a month.
- One in four (26 percent) adult Internet users have read or watched someone else’s experience about health or medical issues.
- About 16 percent of adult Internet users in the US have gone online to find others who share the same health concerns.
These soaring numbers clearly demonstrate that patients have taken responsibility for their health and the decisions that affect it. With a change in scenarios, physicians are left with the option to embrace this change.
The challenges for healthcare providers and hospitals
Smartphones, mobile apps, social media and physician-review websites have revolutionized the way healthcare consumers communicate. The new “word-of-mouth” is the “click-of- mouse.” Service quality reporting in healthcare is a new trend and review platforms have made it easier than ever for patients to state their experiences. Though these channels have also opened up lines of communication with the patients, it has brought new challenges for healthcare professionals.
The path ahead for healthcare providers is to adapt and innovate for providing solutions to meet consumer expectations through social media, latest technology and mobile solutions. Otherwise, in the highly competitive healthcare market, providers who will not pay heed to the mobility needs of today’s “always-on” digitally empowered patients could lose them to competitors.
Digital and social media are considered high-value interactive platforms by industry experts as physician-patient communication is faster and easier. Marketing strategies that include social media can help physicians and hospitals take a more active, engaged role in managing patient health. The demand of the present times are such that it requires integration of information from the social media space to connect with patients and potential patients in more meaningful ways that provide value and increase trust. Healthcare providers who will embrace and inculcate this change into their operations and marketing activities definitely have an edge over others in the industry and will be better-positioned to meet the needs of today’s “digitally empowered” consumers.