Once upon a time, there were doctors and patients. The dynamic was straightforward and expectations around services were clear and manageable for GPs to manage. Today, technological advances and cultural practices have meant that patient behaviour has changed. Does healthcare have patients or consumers?
The answer, as is often the case, isn’t straightforward.
Healthcare and patients
Traditionally, people would attend an appointment with their healthcare provider, receive a diagnosis and treatment. This would generally be accepted and compliance with ‘doctor’s orders’ was highly regarded. This is the typical ‘patient’ behaviour.
Treatment is viewed by the receiver as authoritative and their expectations are that the healthcare professional they’re seeing knows best. People viewed control of their health as being predominantly in the hands of their health practitioner.
Today there’s been a shift from this traditional dynamic
Healthcare and consumers
Today, people often desire greater control over their health, and their experience when receiving care from professionals in the health industry. Behaviour is shifting from that of the more passive ‘patient’ to that of the active ‘healthcare consumer’.
What does this mean? Thanks to the internet, many patients are more educated, or at least more aware of alternative healthcare options available to them. This means competition is fierce for providing care to people. If individuals aren’t satisfied with the level of care they’re receiving, it’s simply a matter of Googling what other doctors are available in their area.
This ease of access has, in many cases, led to a shift in expectations of people in the overall experience of their healthcare. Long wait times, lack of available price lists, difficulty in obtaining appointment times can all contribute to people switching healthcare providers. Patients no longer just want healthcare, they want convenience when receiving it.
While patients primary concern is still their healthcare, they have adopted many consumer attitudes from elsewhere in contemporary culture. Millennial clients in particular desire to have healthcare provision quicker. This could be due to the impact of the ‘now’ attitude of many people. Instantaneous access to many services is now possible thanks to the smartphone, in clients minds - why is healthcare any different?
What does this mean for health and wellness professionals?
Health and wellness professionals need to ensure that they are providing both quality services and a quality overall experience for patients. Maintaining a patient list is no longer a matter of just ensuring the health of patients is well managed (though of course, that is vital!).
Professionals in addition to providing excellent healthcare need to be open to discussing more healthcare options with patients and providing a convenient experience as possible. This may mean considering areas where your service could be improved.
Patients value convenience and transparency as they receive care. Although they are still a patient, they have adopted consumer attitudes as a result of technological and cultural changes. If practitioners want to stand out from the competition, it’s important to respond to the expectations of their clients.
Helpful questions to ask include:
Learning more about client behaviours and attitudes toward healthcare will help you to grow your business. By educating yourself you’ll be best equipped to respond proactively to the needs of your patients and their consumer attitudes. This will also give you an edge over the competition!
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