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Q&A with Kristen Simmons on top pain points on consumer’s healthcare journey

Patient responsibility for their cost of care is rising dramatically. By 2025, it’s estimated that 20 percent of all consumer earnings will go to healthcare costs. As such, consumers are increasingly wrestling with how to navigate the healthcare journey, and providers are seeking ways to provide more transparency around costs. To dig deeper into these shifts, Experian Health conducted a study to assess the patient healthcare journey. A summary of findings were released in an all-new paper, Embracing consumerism: Driving customer engagement in the healthcare financial journey.

We interviewed Kristen Simmons, Experian Health senior vice president of strategy and innovation, to learn more about the study …

What prompted you to conduct this study on the “jobs” associated with the consumer health journey?

In speaking with our clients and top thought leaders in the healthcare space, we are naturally aware that our industry is ripe for change. Consumers expect a more seamless, transparent healthcare journey – from start to finish – but we wanted to dig in and understand more specifically how they view each dimension of the process. What “jobs” must they tackle on their quest to getting the healthcare they need? What’s working, and where are they experiencing pain in the process? We wanted to hear directly from consumers to understand their current situation and motivations, and simultaneously assess how providers are feeling about the state of healthcare.

Tell me more about the “jobs-to-be-done” methodology. Why did you take this approach to conduct your research?

Consumers purchase and use products and services because they satisfy one or more important jobs they are trying to accomplish. In healthcare, this largely centers around the goal of getting better: Cure the ailment, fix the broken bone, complete the annual well-check visit. Qualitative insight into the “jobs” consumers need to get done ensures that we start with a “needs” mentality when we innovate products and solutions, rather than an “ideas-first” mentality. In our work, consumer interviews revealed 137 jobs associated with a typical healthcare experience.

We then conducted a quantitative survey to measure the level of importance associated with each of these jobs, as well as the consumer’s current level of satisfaction with their ability to get each job done. These responses helped us develop a heat map illustrating the greatest pain points and opportunities for improvement. And let me tell you, there is a lot of work to be done to improve the customer experience in health!

Are you surprised to see that the financial “jobs” associated with the consumer’s healthcare journey to be the most painful for consumers?

I think we all knew the financial aspects of the journey would be a pain point, but it was surprising to see just how dominant this pain was ranked across absolutely every financial element of the journey from start to finish. Ninety-four percent of consumers ranked financial experiences as a major pain point in their overall healthcare journey. Additionally, 98 percent of consumers ranked worrying about paying their medical bills as a “very” to “extremely important” pain point. We need to build solutions and processes that offer consumers more transparency around the financial aspects of the healthcare journey—and importantly, help them know what to expect at each step along the way. This will alleviate some of the stresses of the unknown and allow healthcare consumers to focus on what matter most – getting the care they need.

Beyond the consumer survey, you also interviewed 22 providers about their priorities for creating a better patient experience. What did you learn in these discovery calls and face-to-face interviews?

Healthcare providers want to see change as well. They are obviously focused on healing people, but they recognize the need to give focus to the marketing and business aspects of providing care. They told us they want to find ways to provide more clarity around charges, and education around how charges can change along the way depending on health discoveries. They additionally cited desires to measure the customer experience, improve their IT infrastructures, build customer loyalty and even link customers with charitable organizations who can help with healthcare costs and payment. They fundamentally understand that all aspects of the consumer or patient experience is important, and some are beginning  to recognize that the financial and clinical aspects of healthcare may be more interrelated than once thought.

The theme of “consumerism” bubbled up in both the consumer and provider responses. Can you expand on what “consumerism” means in the healthcare space?

With the rise of digital technology, consumers have unprecedented power. They expect to be provided with a turnkey, individual experience that is fast and seamless. Think Amazon. Think Apple. Think about review sites like Yelp. While other businesses have been shifting their focus toward delivering meaningful and valuable consumer experiences, healthcare has largely stayed the same. But, costs are rising for governments and employers, and this is placing pressure on healthcare organizations to think differently about how they deliver value. Those rising costs are also directly impacting consumers, driving more shopping behavior and greater adoption of new online tools and resources (think WebMD) that give them more control. These shifts mean that driving consumer engagement and redefining how healthcare organizations interact with people is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. Providers need to make the customer experience a priority. Our survey results validate that, and I’m certain the expectations will only increase in the years to come as the next generations enter the healthcare arena.

To learn more about the survey findings, visit Experian.com/consumerhealthstudy.