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The empowered consumer

More demanding and discerning consumers are opening doors for new entrants in healthcare provision.

Consumers are taking advantage of unprecedented access to information to become more diligent and informed about their health. The growing power of the patient as discerning consumer is creating new global markets and informing new models for care.

Patients are demanding more sophisticated, convenient, transparent, affordable and personalised service. As a result, an agile private sector has gained a strong foothold in the delivery and financing of healthcare. In a recent PwC consumer survey, almost half of respondents said they would consider having procedures like wound treatment, stitches or staples removed at a retail clinic or pharmacy. One-third said they would get an MRI at a retail venue. The underlying message is that patients are accepting greater accountability for their health.

Patients are also welcoming the flexibility that technology brings to their care. Increasingly, they are willing to be monitored wirelessly for their conditions, and to consider receiving traditionally hospital-based medical treatments, such as chemotherapy, at home. Obtaining readings from devices like electrocardiograms, pacemakers or defibrillators, which generally requires an in-person visit, can now be done through a mobile phone and wirelessly sent to a physician.

Patients are taking a greater interest in their care and are more willing to self-manage. They want to be more empowered when it comes to their health. Leveraging available health information, new technology, and mobile health (mHealth), the empowered consumer knows more, wants more and is able to do more for themselves.

An era of patient-centric health systems is emerging, with a shift away from fragmented care to integrated models.

Impact on Healthcare

More engaged and discerning consumers are exerting greater influence on health systems and driving new business models. This trend is opening the door for new entrants from industries such as retail, telecommunications, technology, and wellness and fitness. At the same time, new products, services and delivery systems are helping to democratise and decentralise healthcare.

An era of patient-centric health systems is emerging. We are seeing a general shift away from fragmented care to integrated models: organisations, communities and social care providers coordinating their services, with patients as active partners in their health across the continuum.

Informed consumers will demand increasing accountability, integrity and transparency from their health systems. Meanwhile, the pressure is on governments to provide sustainable care in the face of anticipated significant increases in healthcare costs. The private sector offers partnership opportunities to satisfying consumer demands. As financial performance is tied to clinical outcomes, patient engagement will also become increasingly important. The private sector has the resources and innovative technologies to meet the outcomes that informed consumers increasingly value. These companies can invest in insights and have the versatility to adapt to satisfy consumer needs.

mHealth services are already replacing visits to nurses and doctors. Wireless technology will improve access to health for people around the world. As the technologies improve and patients discover they hold the power of self-care on their personal devices, they will expect to have greater access to these services. Mobile technologies will improve the quality of care they receive while easing some of the pressures on the health system.

Widening choices in a growing global health market have opened the doors for new players like telecommunications to access the broad healthcare consumer base.

Contact us

Christine Walters

Global Health Industries, Industry Executive, PwC United States