Anticipating Patient Needs with Healthcare Consumer Metrics

Anticipating Patient Needs with Healthcare Consumer Metrics

Anticipating Patient Needs with Healthcare Consumer Metrics

18 November 2016

How many consumers does your healthcare network treat on an annual basis? If you’re not sure, then don’t worry because you’re not alone. Most healthcare providers don’t know the answer. The industry has done a great job at keeping track of metrics such as admissions, discharges, and length of stay. However, these factors have little to do with understanding consumer behavior. This would be analogous to retailers being concerned only about the number of shopping trips made and products offered, but disregard how many shoppers came into the store.  Successful retailers have come to the realization that they need to tie their metrics back to shopper behavior. Understanding how shoppers behave and consider the product or service, retailers have been better equipped to develop a more loyal following (e.g. Apple, Amazon).

For healthcare organizations that are facing increasing demands from consumers and mounting pressure to meet these expectations, then they need to start tracking the metrics that will inform them on consumer behavior. Having the right metrics on consumer behavior can allow you to:  

  • Better engage with your consumers. Understand how your consumers are
    using your network of services and utilize this information to strengthen your engagement with them. For example, if you know the consumer has visited the network before, then avoid having him fill out the same information as a new patient, assuming no changes have occurred with your returning patient. 
     
  • Proactively manage consumers’ health. Identify consumers who have a chronic or serious health condition, but have visited your network less than expected over a specified time period. Reach out to these consumers in an appropriate manner before their health condition worsens. 
     
  • Reduce costs and operate more efficiently. Analyze the number of visits made by consumers within a year to your entire network or even by service line.  Doing so can enable you to manage more clearly the potentially inappropriate visits made by the “frequent fliers” (i.e. right care at the right time in the right setting).  This will allow for more efficient access of your population.

 

SIMPLE METRICS 

 Some basic metrics to start off with are the number of consumers being treated and the number of visits each consumer makes per year.These metrics need to be calculated across multiple years, which will help identify trends and establish benchmarks. For example, by analyzing the consumer population through the years, you can verify if the population being treated is growing, sustaining, or decreasing. By looking at the number of visits per consumer, we are able to notice if your patient population is coming back more often or not.

   

Knowing these metrics will enable a deeper understanding of the consumer’s behavior – casting a light upon where you can or should prioritize care and population health management initiatives. We then ranked consumers based on the number of visits they made within a year. This allowed us to isolate those who were frequent fliers versus those that were one-timers.   

 

NEARLY HALF OF VISITS CAME FROM ONLY 10% OF CONSUMERS SEEN
 

The top ten percent of the most frequent consumers accounted for almost half of the network’s visits for the year. Some consumers clearly will require more frequent visits and some can either be seen in lower cost settings or not at all with proper communication.  Take stomach / gastrointestinal issues.  Many visits from patients who do not have a chronic condition or family history can be managed without a visit – (e.g. instead provide information, communication).  On the other hand, for those with a more acute episode, a chronic condition or other escalating factors in co-morbid conditions, their visits may likely continue as they should.  The point through this is to become aware of the concentration of visits in various segments of consumers to determine the most appropriate care setting and timing. If the network is able to prevent or re-align these visits, they would be able to repurpose schedule time, staff time and other resources to create more timely access for others.  

On the other hand, the same network had a third of their consumers visiting only once per year. Is there a likelihood that some of these consumers have a chronic condition that should be monitored more often through either additional visits or through other means such as video/e-visits? By identifying these individuals ahead of time and giving them the proper attention as needed, the healthcare network begins to meet the consumer more where they are and on terms that satisfy them more.  And likely get a better, more economical and satisfying experience with their chosen healthcare provider.

Not only is it important to know how often consumers are using the network, but what services they are using. When we analyzed what area of service (e.g. Hospital, Ambulatory, Home Health) consumers were utilizing, we discovered that the percentage of consumers visiting the healthcare network at multiple service areas increased by 5% over 4 years.  This means that the network has multiple occasions in which it can leave a positive or a negative impression and also highlights an important trend – managing across a continuum of care. As in most health systems, a consumer moves through the health network at multiple touch points – primary care, Women’s Health, radiology, pathology, etc. – which allows the system to take advantage of opportunities to create loyal consumers.    As a consumer, the healthcare network is viewed as one entity and there is no difference between a hospital visit versus a doctor’s office visit so why should the healthcare provider continue to treat Hospital and Ambulatory visits as two different ecosystems when relating to consumer needs and expectations? 

As you can see from above, the information you need to truly understand who your consumers are and how they are leveraging your network’s services may be within your reach already. The difference is viewing your data through a consumer’s lens. By doing so, you take real proactive steps to building a consumer based model of care delivery as a health and wellness system that consumers want, expect and can use for all of their health and wellness needs.

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