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Readers Write: Paving the Way for Patient Voice at Health Industry Events

February 5, 2015 Readers Write 4 Comments

Paving the Way for Patient Voice at Health Industry Events
By Simone Myrie


There is a revolution happening in healthcare. Once willing to accept their role as passive recipients of healthcare, patients are increasingly being recognized and acknowledged as consumers of healthcare.

What do I mean by this? Individuals are taking on the responsibility of shopping for their own healthcare and purchasing technology to help them better manage their health. Additionally, policy changes are propelling the shift towards consumer-centric care delivery. More emphasis is being placed on reimbursement for patient satisfaction, value-based care delivery, and increased information sharing and communication with consumers.

If health industry leaders want to rethink their approaches in response to this shift, they need to make sure they have truly engaged patients — now consumers – well represented at their major conferences and being included as active participants in the conversation about healthcare. Arguably, HIMSS is the biggest annual health conference in America. I applaud the Walking Gallery for partnering with HIStalk to sponsor a patient scholarship competition to allow for more patient attendance at HIMSS15.

Patients and their caregivers have long shouldered the responsibility of managing their health outside the four walls of the care setting. They have a wealth of information and are stewards of that information, a role that is mutually beneficial to providers. Technology is also changing the way they track, manage, and share their health information.

We know that today, 21 percent of Americans are using technology to track their symptoms. We also know that 58 percent of consumers are more likely to stay with their providers if they offer online access to their clinical health information.

Giving individuals access to their data will be critical in the more competitive, value-based healthcare system of the future. This is why the Blue Button Initiative continues to remind health industry leaders that patient expectations are changing. They want to collaborate more and are activated and engaged in ways we’ve never previously seen.

More people than ever before – regardless of pre-existing conditions or employment status – are gaining access to affordable healthcare, largely because of the Affordable Care Act. The latest numbers report 9.5 million Americans have purchased health insurance through the health insurance exchanges. More importantly, much like any other purchase that they would make, consumers are demanding choice in healthcare.

To meet that expectation, HHS has reported that over 90 percent of consumers will be able to choose from three or more issuers on the exchanges, up from 74 percent in 2014. Consumers can also choose from an average of 40 health plans for 2015 coverage, up from 30 in 2014 based on data at the county level.

With the expanded pool of Americans gaining access to healthcare services, health plans now have to rethink their marketing strategies so that they appear attractive to a new group of stakeholders beyond employers. They now have to sell themselves to individuals, a historic change in the system.

While healthcare leaders convene to talk the latest in care delivery — or better yet, patient engagement — it makes sense to have more consumers present contributing to the dialogue about them. Unfortunately, these conferences often prove to be cost prohibitive for the average individual. HIStalk and the Walking Gallery are leading by example with the latest patient scholarship competition. I suspect they will see a large group of applicants.

Given the crucial role of the individual in the new healthcare system, I hope that more patient scholarships will become the norm at every health industry conference. In the discussion of how to take healthcare into the future, we can’t afford to miss the individual consumer’s voice.

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Currently there are "4 comments" on this Article:

  1. Wow this is a perfect example of somehow who has to get out of their government office a little bit.. Or perhaps it sounds like a millennial is in the house? They are so cute.

    1) Healthcare is NOT a consumer good – people don’t chose to get sick nor is it in most cases something you shop for except for plastic surgery. 2) People have always wanted to be involved in their health and health care.

    3) She might want to learn a little history about things like AIDS or women’s health (have you had a baby yet?) and the role that the grass-roots played in changing health care. Guess what people who want to change health care go to college in health care related fields like health care administration. In my lifetime over half of all physicians are now women and that was a direct result of people wanting to be part of their own health care.
    4) Shifting responsibility sadly also isn’t new and to imply that patients have somehow been irresponsible by not shopping in the past when they were unable to obtain health coverage because of a pre-existing condition is naive. Most of the plans people purchase now are high deductible plans and have resulted in even higher % of uncollected bills at doctors office

    5) There is nothing wrong with scholarships and of course health care needs to include them but surprise have you heard of the 3 AIMS? The first one is patient experience.. As to including patients in a tech industry conference like HIMSS? Why when you don’t even see any consumers at the consumer electronic show? or drivers at an auto show? It is an industry sales conference not a policy one. Do they want to go see the vendors (sales people) on the floor? Or learn about cloud computing? There are far more appropriate conferences who’s high cost block patients and patient advocates that make far more sense to participate in.

    That being said of course we want to design for our customers – patients, their family and provide them with the tools they need to make informed decisions but the reality is that bigger players like pharma or even hospitals themselves view patients as an income stream not customers.. Data will change behavior? The average American has an 8th grade reading level and a 5th grade medical literacy level (in a recent survey 32% of millennials think vaccines are linked to autism). You need things like shared decision making tools not data dumps of your lab results.

    Covering people with affordable health insurance is important but the 9.5 million aren’t all new to the system and many of them cycle in and out each year and are only a fraction of the individual market. In most states the individual market is 3x bigger than the new exchange plans so again this isn’t new. The vast majority of those purchasing plans on the exchange are also very low income (over 82% get a subsidy) with very high deductibles (2,000 to 5,000) so most costs will be out of pocket still. The exchange plans are similar in cost and benefit with narrow networks so again you aren’t really shopping. When we expanded medicare to cover seniors oh wait we did this before without technology? egad!!) did they become more engaged in their care or just pick the cheapest plans?

    So yes of course you want to hear from your end users/customers but nwhat you need to do is embed the patient centered concept into the products and services not send a couple of token patients to an industry conference with 45,000.

  2. I agree with many of Austin’s points, but his (or her) nasty tone and gendered, ageist responses make me sick. (“Have you had a baby yet?” Are you kidding me?)

    Simone, thanks for writing. Hopefully, you’ll find respectful debate that helps further the conversation about how we can best engage patients. I’m sorry you didn’t find it here.

  3. Agree with Really? That was mean, Austin. Simone wrote a true and upbeat piece about what is going on today. You lose points for any valid criticism by your nasty tone. We don’t need that.

  4. Agree with Really and Overkill. Perhaps the original poster’s optimistic tone is indicative of a more positive era to be ushered in by us hopeful millenials. Austin, our generation needs your mentorship and expertise, but we don’t need you to patronize us. In turn, maybe you could use a little dose of our open minded freshness.

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