Consumerism is blossoming in healthcare, boosted by the wealth of medical information World Wide Web sites can provide. How providers respond to the dynamics of this new marketplace could determine their fate.
Patients want control over their medical records and assurances the information will not be shared without their approval. They seek enhanced communication with physicians and a more active role in their medical care. They demand better service and higher quality from hospitals and outpatient clinics.
The Internet and its ability to feed the consumer useful and useless information is helping drive the change. Providers are tempted to respond with ambitious e-commerce strategies, hoping a hook-up among providers and patients will somehow generate big bucks.
Don't count on it. Despite its allure as an emerging channel of communication, the Internet is no sure-fire guarantee of profitability. Devoting the proper amount of resources and capital will require a sense of the commercial limitations of cyberspace.
Healthcare executives are better off focusing their attention on the ends (the patient), rather than the means (technology).
A recent Governance Institute study nailed it by saying "service organizations that want to survive, let alone thrive, must be more serious and more proficient at being patient- and consumer-focused."