Industry Voices—Healthcare consumerism will be the driving force post-COVID-19

At a time when in-person appointments are limited and safety concerns are top-of-mind, digitized solutions like telehealth and digital payments have become a consumer expectation. In fact, 41% of Gen Z and 33% of Millennials prefer virtual care options over in-person. (Getty/airdone)

COVID-19 continues to strain Americans’ wallets and access to quality healthcare. Nearly half of Americans are more concerned about the cost of healthcare now than they were before the pandemic.

Healthcare cost, quality, and convenience are the driving forces for the consumerism of healthcare—or how patients use information and technology to make informed decisions. Today’s environment has pushed consumers to find the most cost-effective care and seek out information about providers, physicians, payment plans and options.

To meet new consumer expectations, healthcare institutions will need to adopt consumer-centric models and technology solutions focused on education and transparency, with streamlined communications and advanced payment processing.

Digitized solutions to support growth

The pandemic has forced healthcare systems to fast-track modernization. At a time when in-person appointments are limited and safety concerns are top-of-mind, digitized solutions like telehealth and digital payments have become a consumer expectation.

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In fact, 41% of Gen Z and 33% of Millennials prefer virtual care options over in-person. While older generations are more likely to prefer in-person, younger generations’ expectations will define the future of healthcare.

Payment cycles have also been digitized (like software and technology to support real-time payments)—without this, consumers are often left in the dark about healthcare costs and options. Consumer-centric healthcare models and technology solutions must be considered to allow for greater transparency, education and payment understanding.

Digital solutions present an opportunity to scale healthcare plans as well, as organizations can increase offerings to a wider array of consumers. Additionally, the prolonged use of these solutions may help improve revenue streams by increasing patient retention/recruitment and reducing operating costs.

The biggest obstacles to the adoption of these solutions are the upfront investment and reimbursement costs. In order to implement telehealth, healthcare organizations will need to secure adept virtual care and payment platforms. Aside from the initial investment, limited reimbursement options for services like telehealth present a barrier for patients who desire virtual care and providers who wish to improve care. Since the pandemic, more reimbursement options have become available, both federally and commercially; however, the longevity of coverage is uncertain. Given its benefits to patients and the bottom line, we expect payers will be inclined to keep telehealth as a standard reimbursable cost post-COVID.

Flexible and convenient care options to help with the bottom line

According to the AHA, hospital losses are projected to exceed $323 billion in 2020. With a steep decline in revenue-driving procedures, healthcare leaders need to look for sustainable methods to withstand future crises.

Two key considerations for determining these methods are improved patient satisfaction and retention and the implementation of digital banking solutions.

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Improved patient satisfaction and retention can be achieved through greater transparency and convenient contemporary care options. Additionally, sustainable digital banking solutions offer two-fold benefits—improving patient care and reducing operating costs.

Final takeaways

More than ever, healthcare institutions and providers have the responsibility to adapt to a more consumer-centric healthcare model.

From digital reimbursements and telehealth accessibility to banking technology solutions that scale and grow as they do, organizations must understand that consumerism of healthcare is no longer just an aspirational expectation of tomorrow–it is here today.

Bret Schiller is the head of healthcare, corporate client banking and specialized industries at J.P. Morgan Commercial Banking.