Viewing Healthcare Consumerism through another Lens (pun intended)

JUN 27

As a senior analyst for a research based investment bank, it shouldn’t be surprising when personal health experiences and areas of focus for our strategic advisory practice collide.

With increasing frequency, TripleTree is discovering thriving healthcare solutions whose business model is based on consumerism.  This is a departure from traditional models where health plan reimbursement ruled the day, and fee-for-service payment models were avoided.

My recent experience with a Lasik consultation offered a terrific case study on the force multiplier of consumerism and prompted me to conduct a quick assessment of its impact on elective surgeries.  Done thousands of times each day at clinics in every community, elective procedures like Lasik are the apex of value pricing, where customer service is the only differentiator between providers.

  • Patient experience:  After some online research, I scheduled an appointment with a clinic and my experience commenced in a flower-adorned office (resembling more of a day spa than an out-patient waiting room).
  • Patient information:  First step…upon check in, an iPad was provided as a platform for capturing personal information and answers to a battery of questions.
  • Patient preference:  Second step…a selection of color preferences was offered to support my experience.  Upon blurting out “yellow”…not only was a yellow folder and welcome packet presented, but now a range of “yellow themed” accoutrements will follow me through the procedure.
  • Patient peace of mind:  Third step…a facility tour.  Here is where my yellow theme will come to life as the surgical procedure is staged and conducted in a glass surrounded room where lighting, music and temperature are tailored to my preference.
  • Patient education:  Fourth step…dilate my eyes for pre-op consultation.  Again, an iPad was presented, but this time to play an informational video trumpeting the credentials of the surgeon, facility and post-procedure information.
  • Patient access: Last step…a discussion with the surgeon including thorough Q/A session and the encouragement to contact him (phone or email) with any questions.

This all points to how aware this clinic was to my choices, and its local competition.  In fact, health information tools like Castlight Health show me that 10 Lasik clinics are within a 20 mile radius of my home.

Consumerism in healthcare isn’t a zero sum calculation…but when viewed through the lens of a Lasik consultation (sorry, pun intended); perhaps it can be considered as a formula that calculates the “economics of trust” as one weighs hope for improved eyesight with the decision of who can provide it.  Or:

“A provider’s ability to differentiate

as it relates to my health need”


“The level of frustration that my ‘other doctors’

don’t offer the same individualized approach”

Consumer engagement and consumerism is a primary theme of our research agenda for 2011 and we’re starting to see the emergence of “consumer as payer” drive a range of innovations…in Lasik and other more pressing areas like diabetes management.  Retail health settings (MinuteClinic); community health approaches (LifeLine Screening); tailored care (GetWellNetworks); drug prescription kiosks (InstyMeds); and other compelling innovations are converging on the consumer as health reform shifts payment models from pure fee-for-service to value-based approaches.

My Lasik procedure at $1200 per eye comes with a lifetime guarantee…but when its all said and done, my out of pocket will actually exceed $3000.  The side note (as my husband pointed out); is that because my out of pocket ‘elective’ procedure will help me say goodbye to my eyeglasses; he’ll happily elect to say hello to a new set of golf clubs to keep things in balance.

Let us know what you think!

Joanna Roth
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