Morrison: Healthcare industry must address consumer realities

Healthcare leaders must consider the effect of consumers' circumstances on the healthcare industry, futurist Ian Morrison writes in Hospitals & Health Networks.

Even as healthcare costs rise, consumers are taking on more of the cost burden, Morrison writes. Most will not only go for cheaper options over greater provider choice, but also go without or postpone care. In addition, the consumer population is aging and diversifying, with post-Affordable Care Act coverage expansion particularly affecting the Latino population. 

Although it's inevitable that consumers will pay more out-of-pocket, providers must go beyond "dumb cost-shifting, blind premium support or simple tax credits," Morrison writes. Value-based benefit design, for example, may help consumers make better choices. 

Furthermore, Morrison writes, refining healthcare according to consumer needs will help focus on undercompensated care rather than uncompensated care, reducing the burden on low-income consumers and helping providers better serve financially vulnerable patients.

Leaders must be attentive to patients' economic circumstances, Morrison writes. "This will require investment in electronic infrastructure; service redesign; and dealing with consumers who are facing revenue cycle issues, such as collections."

Morrison made a similar point last September, writing that hospitals and providers must improve care quality and delivery and reduce the cost burden on private healthcare purchasers in order to compete in the marketplace, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

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