Consumer Healthcare Trends: What the Healthcare Industry Can Learn from Digital Payments & Retail

Like consumer-directed healthcare (CDH), digital payments have experienced explosive growth over the last 10 to 15 years. How can the healthcare industry proactively progress from the convergence of digital transformation and consumer-directed healthcare growth to ultimately improve the consumer experience in healthcare?

The future is now
Even while the industry has experienced – and continues to experience – exponential growth of CDHP participation, the industry has also arrived at a turning point. The industry needs to shift from positioning CDH purely around financial accountability to one of better enabling people to be healthcare consumers. In order to break through the current barriers stymieing even more rapid growth of CDHP adoption, employers and plan administrators must drive accountability, engagement and health management with the goal of helping consumers make better decisions and stay healthier in order to drive down healthcare costs and improve quality. But how do we actually empower consumers and drive the next generation of consumerism? What opportunities exist in payments and emerging technologies to improve the consumer experience?

By leveraging what other industries already know about consumer engagement, loyalty and experiential marketing, as well as which tools and resources consumers are more likely to adopt and why, the healthcare industry can capture a greater share of the growing opportunity.

Deloitte estimated that this year, digital would influence 64% of in-store retails sales, and digital payments affect all parts of the customer journey – from pre-purchase research and digital offers to checking balances. Anytime, anywhere access is firmly entrenched in the minds of consumers and is now an expectation, not just a nice-to-have. And, smartphones and tablets are just the tip of the iceberg. With wearables and the Internet of Things (IoT) taking off, the industry must watch consumer acceptance and adoption of such technology closely in order to understand how it may be applied to improve, not only the healthcare consumer experience, but benefit other stakeholders as well.

Look before you leap
Even when an emerging technology bursts onto the scene, industries must apply a checklist of sorts to assess its relevance and value. According to Jeff Gibson, principal at MasterCard Advisors, in a recent webinar, there are a number of criteria to consider prior to rolling out new technology to ensure acceptance among consumers:

  • In general, a new payment modality should be 2 times as convenient as an existing method in order to be adopted.
  • The technology must offer benefits to multiple stakeholders – consumers, merchants (healthcare providers), financial institutions, etc. The best new technologies provide value to all.
  • Expanding merchant acceptance and creating a relevant communications strategy to move consumers along the migration path of adoption.

Key adoption triggers for payments innovation in the consumer lifecycle
Surprisingly, the spectrum of interest in mobile commerce and payments has little to do with age, but rather falls along a continuum more related to savvy and trust. MasterCard Advisors places online consumers in one of six stages, from online rejecters at one end, to those whose primary preference is to transact via mobile technology at the other end. In order to achieve a successful rollout of digital payments technology, the industry must understand the pain points and action triggers for each stage of the continuum in order to migrate consumers along the path.

How to address challenges with adoption and use
To revisit an earlier point, an emerging technology must achieve more than the “cool factor” in order to displace or complement an existing payments method. In fact, according to Comdata (Business of Apps: App Usage Statistics 2015), 78% of mobile apps are abandoned after the first use. Reasons include low perceived value and lack of a compelling reason to keep a dedicated app on the mobile device. By studying the checkpoints of value presented earlier, providers should always consider how much value is being added and for which stakeholders before introducing a new technology.

According to a survey by eMarketer (The Mobile Wallet, 2015), the top barriers to adoption of a new payments technology are security & privacy concerns, ease-of-use and cost. Conversely, those same concerns are the features rated most important among consumers in mobile wallets.

Still, while it is difficult to gain acceptance of new apps, it’s not impossible. By learning from mobile payments and emerging technology leaders like Amazon and Starbucks, our industry can help ensure the successful rollout of technology that adds value and improves the consumer experience. The Starbucks mobile app, for example, not only garners a high level of use among consumers (20% of all sales are conducted via the app), it also provides many benefits to the company, including increased operational efficiency, higher sales, lower costs and improved employee satisfaction.

By better understanding health care benefits-related barriers to emerging technology adoption, the industry can employ a number of tactics to address them:

  • Provide security assurances Aside from just alleviating consumer concerns about security through communication, be prepared to walk the walk when it comes to safeguarding sensitive healthcare and financial information.
  • Create end-user and provider evangelists Implement referral programs and leverage old fashioned word of mouth marketing over digital channels.
  • Integrate patient data to create a frictionless experience along the buying cycle Integrated appointments, reminders, claims, test results, account balances and payments capabilities, and eliminating as much paper as possible in order to improve on what may already be an unpleasant experience for many consumers.
  • Get messaging frequency and cadence right While “push” notifications can be an essential tool for providing app value, too frequent or irrelevant notifications will lead consumers to ignore or disable them. Ideally, an app should allow the user to control the frequency, types and timing of notifications.
  • Loyalty program, partnerships and health plan integration gets you one step closer to being a one-stop shop for managing all healthcare needs By making your app the technology hub for managing health and wellness, you can help ensure its importance to the consumer.
  • Branch out to the Internet of Things Think about what other devices aside from smartphones and tablets can be leveraged to provide 24/7 access and convenience to consumers. Such devices include household buttons, Internet-enabled appliances or voice command-enabled remote devices that link to an app or directly to the Internet.

The bottom line
Every interaction is an opportunity to strengthen relationships by engaging consumers – something that has typically been overlooked in the healthcare industry. By learning from retail industry leaders how to adopt and implement emerging technologies, the healthcare industry can help smooth and speed the path toward consumer-directed healthcare to create empowered healthcare consumers who drive improved quality for lower cost.

For more information on this topic, fill out the form on the right to watch our on-demand webinar, “Consumer Healthcare Trends – Emerging Payments & Implications to Your Health Benefits Programs.”

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