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Poor Personalized Healthcare Limits Healthcare Consumerism

Around 70 percent of patients want their providers to personalize their healthcare, but care model constraints keep clinicians from fulfilling healthcare consumerism needs.

Healthcare consumerism is here, but with few organizations primed to integrate consumer health behaviors into a personalized medicine approach, the consumer experience is falling short of expectations, according to the 2022 State of the Healthcare Consumer Report from Kaufman Hall.

The survey of over 3,500 healthcare consumers showed that patient engagement and self-management are on the rise, but seven in 10 said they want their healthcare providers to be more involved in that engagement.

Forty-one percent of respondents want their health systems to support healthy eating, 40 percent want them to pay for exercise equipment or programs, and 39 percent want systems to provide virtual patient-provider communication to discuss symptoms.

“As people adopt behaviors that make them more mindful of their health and wellbeing, they are increasingly interested in integrating those activities with their healthcare experience,” Dan Clarin, a managing director at Kaufman Hall and the report’s lead author, said in a statement.

Specifically, patients are taking wellness and health management into their own hands, with 34 percent saying they are managing their diet and nutrition and 31 percent saying they use a fitness tracker. Another 29 percent said they engage in physical health activities, 22 percent receive mental health services, 18 percent practice self-care activities, 12 percent use at-home diagnostics, and 12 percent use alternative therapies.

But despite wanting their providers to integrate those consumer activities into their medical visits, providers are falling short.

“Unfortunately, the health management activities consumers engage in are often disconnected from their clinical care,” Clarin explained. “By listening to their consumers and integrating their insights, health systems have an opportunity to better meet evolving consumer needs.”

Limited patient access to care and narrow health insurance coverage could be at play here, the report showed. Folks who get employer-sponsored insurance coverage have only about one (38 percent) or two (33 percent) plan options, which in turn can seriously limit their options for affordable provider access.

Having few payer options means healthcare consumers can’t shop around for a provider who meets their needs, and providers don’t have affordable options for designing the healthcare experience their patients want.

For example, providers might not be able to integrate wearables into patient care because that type of service might not be covered by a patient’s insurance plan, meaning the provider would not be reimbursed for such a service.

Moreover, insurance coverage is contributing to disparities in healthcare consumerism and consumer activation, with the Kaufman Hall report showing that individuals with private insurance are more likely to take part in patient engagement activities than those with public insurance. On average, commercially insured consumers take part in eight healthy activities, compared with Medicaid beneficiaries taking part in an average of six healthy activities.

“Today’s insured consumers often have fewer options for health plans, which can translate into less choice for the services they are looking for,” Clarin noted. “At the same time, persistent healthcare disparities are posing major public health challenges. Health systems must be able to both elevate the voice of the consumer throughout their organizations and play a leading role of lifting the health of the communities they serve.”

Healthcare providers are primed to personalize care encounters with certain health behaviors more so than others. For example, 59 percent of consumers access mental healthcare at their provider’s direction, meaning that activity is woven in their healthcare encounters.

Only 43 percent of wearable users experience the same, indicating that fewer providers are integrating wearable use into the healthcare encounter.

But as health systems continue to face the demands of healthcare consumerism—including not just patient engagement behaviors but care access habits and “shopping around” for providers—it will be key to determine best practices for personalizing the care encounter.

The report authors recommend that clinicians continue to embrace a patient-centered care model and build strong patient-provider relationships to gain insights into consumer health needs.

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