Getty Images

Adopting Patient-Centered Care Stymied by Limited Patient-Centered Metrics

Only around half of hospitals and health systems are looking at patient-centered metrics, which is getting in the way of broad adoption of patient-centered care models.

Hospitals and health systems nationwide still don’t have the patient-centered systems in place to meet the moment on healthcare consumerism, but it isn’t because they don’t acknowledge the importance of the matter, according to new Kaufman Hall reporting.

Rather, it’s because they aren’t utilizing the patient-centered measures that could help influence consumer-centric systems, the report authors said.

By now, most healthcare professionals agree that consumerism is shaping the industry. With patients responsible for more of their medical costs, they are approaching their healthcare as they would other service industries.

Patients acting as consumers may choose to access care somewhere else if a hospital or health system doesn’t meet their needs. And for organizations operating on thin margins and seeking to increase market share, that emphasizes the need for patient-centricity.

“Consumers now have plenty of incentives, information, choices, and digital tools that enable activation,” Dan Clarin, a managing director for Kaufman Hall and the report’s lead author, wrote in a post accompanying the report. “These dynamics all point to the need to abandon the traditional operating model and become more consumer-centric. However, acknowledging the need to be consumer-centric and becoming so are two different things.”

In a survey of 59 hospitals and health systems and interviews with other healthcare industry leaders, the researchers gathered that very few organizations have implemented the patient-centered care model that healthcare consumerism demands. Rather, hospitals and health systems are mostly operating under an older, provider-centric model.

This gap in consumer-centricity is mostly driven by poor insights into consumer needs and limited uptake of consumer-focused performance measures.

“Hospitals and health systems need to think of themselves as consumer-facing organizations and incorporate consumer needs and preferences into their operations,” Clarin said in a press release.

“Consumer-centric hospitals embrace a shift in how performance is measured,” Clarin added. “Traditional metrics that focus on transactions do not provide insight into the relationships patients have with the hospital or health system, or why patients choose one hospital over another.”

Consumer-focused measures may include the cost of care to patients or how much a patient spends at one hospital compared to all of their healthcare spending. But currently, only about half of the Kaufman Hall survey’s respondents said their institution tracks even just one consumer-focused measure. Instead, hospitals and health systems are still looking at metrics like the volume of patient visits, unique patient counts, and inpatient market share.

Clarin wrote that looking at patient-centered measures can help organizations better understand their relationships with patients and healthcare consumers.

“Without measuring underlying consumer dynamics, health systems miss crucial opportunities to invest in impactful consumer-centric strategies that could solve a number of challenges,” Clarin explained. “While leading health systems maintain strong inpatient market share, the share of consumer healthcare spending they capture is significantly lower. Health systems today capture only a fraction of a consumer’s lifetime value.”

Of the organizations that said they have embraced more consumer-centric metrics, around three-quarters (72 percent) said they use them to increase patient access, and 67 percent said they use them to enhance patient satisfaction. Meanwhile, 72 percent use patient-centered metrics to revamp marketing strategies.

But getting to the point of embracing consumer-centered metrics is not simple, the Kaufman Hall researchers said. Around one in seven (69 percent) respondents said they don’t have the data or technology available to track consumer-centered metrics. In particular, respondents said that data, such as outpatient data or share of wallet data, is fragmented and that it can be difficult to integrate that data with health IT systems.

Another 40 percent of respondents said they struggle with defining or prioritizing consumer-centric measures, and 34 percent said they don’t have the staff to manage metrics.

Challenges notwithstanding, getting a handle on consumer-centered metrics will be key to understanding hospital and health system consumer relationships.

“The reality is that without a shift in measurement priorities, health systems have no way of quantifying the impact of consumer relationships on their business model—and no way of understanding the ROI of consumer-focused investments,” Clarin wrote.

“Prioritizing new metrics—such as new patient acquisition, patient churn/retention, share of wallet, and longitudinal value—can allow health systems to diagnose underlying utilization trends and confidently implement and track consumer-centric strategies.”

Next Steps

Dig Deeper on Patient satisfaction and experience

xtelligent Health IT and EHR