Newtown, CT – April 9, 2016
The combination of alternative payment models and high deductible health plans continues to reshape the health care market – While several papers in this month’s Health Affairs clearly point out the effect of information on consumer decision-making when selecting health plans, the evidence is more mixed on consumer activation in shopping for individual health services. Overall, however, it’s pretty clear that the demand for price and quality information is rising, along with the use of that information when offered in a consumer-friendly fashion. None of this is surprising and we’re starting to wonder if the apparently appalling way in which price and quality information is being delivered to consumers is due to planned incompetence. After all, researchers like Judy Hibbard, Jessica Greene, and others have long pointed at very effective ways of displaying information to consumers to help them make value decisions in health care. And yet few payers, if any, are applying that research. Is it by accident? Most likely not. After all, everyone understands that when consumers truly get engaged with compelling and digestible information, they disrupt existing markets and reshape them. That’s scary for most incumbents, but not all. Some are embracing consumer activism.
What this means to you – Imagine that you wake up for the third day in a row with a series of signs and symptoms indicative of an upper respiratory infection, and that you’ve previously had pretty serious sinus problems that can leave you incapacitated during most of the day. You reach for your smartphone, open up the zipnosis app, enter your signs and symptoms, and submit the information. You continue your morning routine as best as possible, and by the time you’re dressed, you check your smartphone and see a prompt in the app. Your health team has sent back a confirmed diagnosis and, given your past medical history logged in your medical records, you have a prescription script ready. In two taps the script is forwarded to your neighboring pharmacy. When you get there you pull out your smartphone and pop up your healthcare boarding pass, which gets you to the front of the line. You pick up your medication and continue on your way to work. While this reads like something out of a parallel universe in which health care is truly patient-centric, it’s real. And some forward-thinking health systems have deployed zipnosis to respond to growing consumer demand for an efficient, effective and friendly care process. The agents of the status quo who still hang on to yesterday’s model will shudder at the thought of such a process. What about the billing for this service? Are we getting paid for this? Shouldn’t the patient be charged something? But how? And therein lies the problem for the dinosaurs. They continue to think this is about them when it’s about the patient. They continue to cling to a model that brings the patient to them instead of bringing information to the patient. They continue to forget that when it’s the consumer’s money, the consumer will make very different decisions and have very different expectations. And so the market is evolving, and innovative solutions like zipnosis are arming forward thinking provider organizations with the tools to serve activated consumers. Others are developing innovative ways to serve up comparative cost and quality information, and will accelerate the pace of change. In the meantime, the Sutters of the old market will continue their strong arm tactics, but we know (and they might know) their days are numbered. Tick-tock, tick-tock.
Francois de Brantes