Packaging Healthcare: What You Get, What’s Included, Price, & Guarantee

A few days ago I published a post entitled: Patient Engagement: A Battled Story Of Consumers vs Healthcare in which I propose that consumerism is beginning to shift the balance inside of healthcare. Since I posted the article I have had the opportunity to join a few other conversations online as well as in person with various administrators and healthcare leaders.

Which has led me to conceive the idea to do a series of 3-4 posts that all tie into the overall topic of consumerism in healthcare. Some of the following thoughts may not be new, some may be a bit radical, and others may just be my own bias.

So what is consumerism?

There are two definitions of consumerism that I want to focus on in this initial post. The first is:

1. The movement seeking to protect and inform consumers by requiring such practices as honest packaging and advertising, product guarantees, and improved safety standards.

2. A social and economic order that encourages the purchase of goods and services in ever-greater amounts

I want to begin with the second definition because I think it is the easiest. The encouragement to purchase goods and services in ever-greater amounts.

It is my observation that in Healthcare specifically, we have an overabundance of goods and services. Whether I am in WI where I reside, Montana where I have lived, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Missouri, West Coast, or East Coast where I have spent time working with healthcare organizations, one thing has resonated with me: There is plenty of healthcare goods and services for the communities in which they serve.

This may be slightly bold, but I will say that not all of the goods and services being produced in some of those healthcare organizations deliver any additional quality or increased healthcare access to the consumers in those communities. If anything, it may just add to the overall cost of care.

Not that most people living in communities understand the cost of their care, let alone have the ability to shop for the goods and services freely based on how they define value.

Unfortunately, a large majority of people are tied to an insurance provider that directs which healthcare organization you utilize for care. Your freedom of choice in healthcare is not always completely free without penalties.

Which leads me into the first definition of consumerism. A movement seeking to protect and inform consumers by requiring such practices as honest packaging and advertising, product guarantees, and improved safety standards.

In healthcare we have a lot of these agencies. Some are professional societies such as ASCO, ACoS, ACR, CAP. (Too many too list and I do not mean to slight any of the organizations, you are all important) There are others which are large networks of healthcare organizations that work collectively to build appropriate outcome based guidelines such as P4, US Oncology Pathways, or NCCN Guidelines. (again too many to list) On top of that there is the FDA. The federal agency responsible for regulating the medical industry and ensuring our safety. There is also the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) which guides radiation producing and radioactive devices, both medical and non medical.

In addition, there are other entities such as Leapfrog, US News and World Report, Hospital Safety Score, HealthGrades, NAPBC, ACR, and again, many other organizations that offer certifications, safety scores, and Centers of Excellence.

A hospital could literally have a billboard on the outside of its hospital walls with all of the banners, flags, stickers, and certifications that the organization could spend additional money on attaining.

Great, you’re certified, but what does this mean to the end user? Remember the person that you care for on a daily basis. The mother you care for and their child you helped to deliver. What does this mean to them? Do they know? Do they care? Does any of this translate into any beneficial meaning or impact what they value with healthcare?

Remember, consumerism is about honest packaging and advertising, product guarantees, and improved safety standards. In my observation, all of the groups have focused on safety standards.

There is nothing wrong with focusing on safety; it is one of the most important items in healthcare.

However, I am willing to bet that most consumers looking for care already assume that by going to a hospital, clinic, physicians, or medical professional that it is safe.

So why have we forgotten the packaging? What about product guarantees?

When it comes to packaging I would admit that I think Dr. Smith of the Surgery Center of Oklahoma is one of the pioneers. (here is his site)  When you look at his site he has a simple image that one can click on, you can see the name of the procedure, the price of the procedure, as well as any disclaimers that relate to the specific procedure.

Another example of packaging was done between the Cleveland Clinic and Lowe’s Home Improvement (click here to see) specifically around heart surgery. Again, another great mix of quality outcomes, safety, and price to make it more attractive for patients to go someplace for top notch care.

Wonderful. Praise. High fives. (said in a solemn voice)

However, this is only for procedure based care or interventions. Surgical procedures. Why? Most likely because it is less complex to measure a patient with a known problem that needs a surgical intervention, do the procedure, and then measure the results of that specific procedure. There is a beginning, a middle, and an end.

As we move into management of more continuous care such as diabetes, obesity, cancer, and other types of conditions it becomes more complex, risky, and difficult to define the beginning, middle, and end.

Simplistically, if I need to put together a cracker and cheese platter I know I can go to a grocery store, or a meat and cheese market and purchase an assortment of cheese and meats. I know what I am purchasing, I know the quality, I know the ingredients, I know the calories. I know the price. I may even be able to sample and know the taste prior to purchasing. I choose to buy what I like and what I believe my friends will enjoy. This is the equivalent of the Surgery Center of Oklahoma and the Cleveland Clinic examples.

What if I want to put on a 7 course meal for a group of friends? This becomes more complex to plan, increased stress and anxiety, and difficult in ensuring that I pull it off without any issues with timing of courses, arrival times, and amount of food. Did I remember the turmeric or cream of tartar? This would be more on the lines of diabetes, obesity, cancer, and other conditions. I know what the problem is, but there are so many inputs and variables that it becomes difficult for me to know what to measure, when to begin measuring, and when it all ends. I can follow the dollars, but knowing all of the inputs needed to produce that care is difficult.

When you begin to inquire about pricing of the total package and everything it entails, this is when you will get the “Deer in headlights look” from a physician, medical professional, or insurance.

The added complexity to all of this is that when it comes to buying food, cars, sports equipment, watches, or other goods I have the final choice in where I spend my money. Healthcare complicates it by having a third party, insurance providers, that step in and dictates where you can go for care and where you cannot go for care. Or if you decide to go out of the network, there is a financial penalty.

Even though we live in a time in which there is an abundance of care with a focus on safety and now quality (whatever quality means) there is still lack of packaging that allows me to see all of the necessary ingredients it takes in order to care for my need at this moment in time, and there is not an upfront price associated with those goods for me to balance in my decision making process. Let alone the complete free will to choose in the market place without a financial penalty.

Lastly, as for the guarantees, there are not a lot of them in healthcare. If I go to see my physician and he decides I need to have a procedure done or if he needs more information, or the procedure does not solve the problem, the physician will order additional testing or procedures. They will continue to order until they feel the problem has been solved. Yet I am stuck with the massive bill that has been tallied up due to the additional exams, tests, and procedures.

I am still waiting for the day in which I can take back an imaging, lab, or surgical procedure and return it because it did not produce the information or results that the physician was hoping to achieve. Maybe one day we will not have to pay for the subsequent exams to gain more information. It will be the cost of doing business?

Department stores and Wal-Mart may not take over healthcare. What they do is give us a preview of what we could do with healthcare if we dared to be bold enough.

I believe and have built a story where consumers need to understand, know, and be at the center of everything in healthcare. A hospital or clinic is the department store. You produce quality and safe care.

I desire a story that includes the ingredients, the calories, the outcome, the price, and I want a guarantee. I want a bold story of healthcare.

Do you believe there is a consumer story in healthcare?

As always, you can feel free to contact me at: CANCERGEEK@GMAIL.COM or follow me on twitter @cancergeek


#PtExp #PX #cancer #hcldr #hccosts #hcsm #stories #storytelling #lcsm #bcsm #hcmktg #mktg #storyteller #hcpt #consumerism #hcbiz

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s