Hospital business to dwindle as patients become consumers

The healthcare market is transitioning to a consumer-driven health market that could cut hospital inpatient business by 25 percent initially and by 40 percent over the longer term, according to an Oliver Wyman market report.

The report, "The Patient-to-Consumer Revolution: How High Tech, Transparent Marketplaces, and Consumer Power are Transforming U.S. Healthcare," also projects:

  • Most surgeries and diagnostic procedures will shift to low-cost outpatient facilities, with competition cutting prices by as much as half.

  • Retail outlets will perform 85 percent of diagnostics services and cut prices by half.

  • Specialized "smart care" teams will replace single-specialty practices by excelling at chronic disease management, prevention and non-acute interventions. They'll also provide 25 percent of traditional primary care services to begin with, and 60 percent down the road.

Accountable care organizations and patient-centered medical homes are laying some of the groundwork for a system focused less on volume and more on cost and quality of care--and potentially cutting healthcare costs by 40 percent, the authors say.

What the report calls Health Market 2.0 will unite consumers focused on wellness (often with the aid of medical apps), transparent consumer markets that "shift the basis of competition from reputation and referrals to price, value and outcomes," and the "smart care" teams that use big data, predictive modeling and other tech tools to help consumers avoid hospitalization and sick-care interventions.

Unlocking the secrets to transforming healthcare is a priority both for healthcare providers and for government. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, for its part, said this week it would pump up to $840 million over four years into an initiative seeking innovative ways to improve patient care and lower costs. The Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative will support networks that help doctors access information and improve outcomes.

Meanwhile, patients need the right tools to become consumers, such as information on overall costs, out-of-pocket expenses, and the quality of providers and healthcare facilities. That's according to Stephen Ondra, senior vice president and chief medical officer of the customer-owned Health Care Services Corp.

For more information:
- here's the report (.pdf)