LAS VEGAS—What do consumers want when they interact with the healthcare system?
The answer may partly depend on their age.
At this week's annual meeting of the Health Information and Management Systems Society, the themes of consumerism and patient engagement were front and center.
Patients are paying for a larger share of their healthcare through high-deductible health plans, and technology is playing a role in helping them find lower-cost care settings and prompting them to pay their bills.
And as more providers get paid based on health outcomes, the hope is that technology will be able to guide people toward healthier behaviors.
Yet the people who are the most tech-savvy aren't necessarily the largest users of healthcare; those patients tend to be older and poorer.
“When you talk about technology engagement with patients and consumers, they each want different things,” said Tamara St. Claire, chief innovation officer at Xerox Healthcare. “We're going to have to be flexible.”
For older generations, “It's really about making their chores about healthcare easier,” she said. For instance, they're most interested in technology that helps them remember to take their pills or schedule an appointment.
Millennials, meanwhile, tend to be research-focused; they're finding their providers through online reviews, taking advantage of telehealth services and showing up to appointments armed with information about their conditions and potential treatments.
They're also far more price-sensitive, which means they will be the most likely target for price transparency tools.
More than 80% of people under the age of 50 are shopping around for providers, compared to 69% of baby boomers and 56% of people older than age 70, according to a survey that Xerox released at HIMSS.
“People are putting off care because they can't afford to pay for it,” St. Claire said. It's strongest with the millennial generation, she added.
Providers are using technology to rethink how they relate to and communicate with their patients, said Hal Wolf, a director at the Chartis Group, an advisory group. They're also paying increased attention to what's happening to the patient during their end-to-end experience with the health system, from finding a doctor to paying their bill.
“Patient as consumer” is one of the investment themes this year for San Francisco-based Dignity Health, which every year works with three to five early stage technology companies to take them from startup to commercial enterprise.
That topic also has been getting significant attention at HIMSS, said Rich Roth, Dignity's chief strategic innovation officer.
“I think there's a big theme of patient engagement and that's just such a huge opportunity, especially if you view it more holistically than just Joint Commission” or patient satisfaction surveys, he said.
HIMSS' core audience used to be chief information officers back in the days when the primary technology concern was implementing an electronic health record system, said Wolf, who is also the incoming vice chair on the HIMSS' board of directors.
But today's technology needs involve strategic concerns like revenue-cycle management, data analytics and population health management.
“Now we're seeing the CEOs coming to HIMSS,” Wolf said. “They're coming because they can see so much in one place. It's all being driven by operations.”