The healthcare industry is changing rapidly as its consumers begin to demand more of the organizations from whom they receive care and insurance. Not only are healthcare consumers sharing more financial risk for the insurance and care they receive, but they are increasingly purchasing insurance outside of group contracts via exchanges or Medicare and Medicaid programs.

In 2015, we saw the first big signal that the health insurance industry is pivoting from B2B to B2C-whether they’re ready or not-as the percent of business served by group contracts dropped to 48%. Providers and payers continue to struggle to understand what engages the healthcare consumer. As they seek to win, serve and retain these customers, they will need the tools, people, and culture to crack that code and master patient and consumer engagement.

Forrester sees three big, highly visible trends accelerating in 2017:

1) Continued adoption of big data technologies to ingest and derive useful, high-quality, and cost-impacting insights.

2) Expanding investments in digital experience to achieve more engagement and satisfaction.

3) Virtual care investments continue to grow to serve future demand.

We believe these investments are necessary to win, serve, and retain healthcare's empowered consumer, because:

Mastery of unstructured data will deliver customer insight. Payers and providers must integrate unstructured data to derive patient and customer insight. Providers, particularly, should start taking advantage of health clouds. And they should begin to apply cognitive offerings to pull more insight from their data.

Digital investments will yield customer engagement. Digital investments win when they reflect and engage customers in an experience that feels personal and contextualized. Payers and providers should tactically invest in mHealth via telemedicine, remote patient monitoring, apps and the integration of consumer devices. But take the time to connect investments to the personas and patient/customer journeys your organization serves to truly engage.

Virtual care will expand access and improve patient experience. Bricks and mortar serve most patients today, but prepare for today’s mobile customer to want to skip face-to-face encounters in favor of virtual for a host of ailments sometime soon-with early adopters trying it today.

Dr. Google and robots aren’t likely to replace the value of a visit with the doctor, but skipping the line in the waiting room in favor of a more convenient setting than even retail is something we expect to become the norm.

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