Change Healthcare recently surveyed consumers, payers and providers to gain insight on their unique perspectives regarding consumer engagement investments and effectiveness. The findings demonstrate that value-based care is propelling investment in consumer engagement, but consumers are still thirsting for change, relevance and access.

"The Engagement Gap: Healthcare Consumer Engagement in 2017" determined one-third of healthcare IT investment dollars are earmarked for consumer engagement, but 72 percent of consumers say their experience with providers and health plans hasn't improved or has actually worsened in the past 24 months. This data seems to align with an article I wrote back in March: "Why is no one using our patient portal?"

Consumerism in healthcare has been evolving, and the study provides a glimpse into which engagement strategies are succeeding and which are failing, as well as which technologies consumers are using to engage in their healthcare and what they want out of an engagement experience.

It also sheds light on why and how payers and providers are focusing on consumer engagement, where they're investing, and differences in their priorities. Further, it reveals concerning gaps between what payers and providers think they're achieving and what consumers are actually experiencing.

Key data points from the study include:

  • Investment in consumer engagement is a top priority for 80 percent of payers and 72 percent of providers.
  • Value-based care (67 percent of providers vs. 74 percent of payers) is the top reason why, followed by competitive pressures and consumer demand for a more retail experience.
  • 66 percent of providers say pricing transparency regulations are driving plans to offer consumer self-service tools.
  • Online portals/websites and care alerts are the most used channels for engagement with payers and providers (by one-third of consumers).
  • However, less than 21 percent of consumers reported an improved experience. Moreover, consumer engagement is hampered by a "millennial gap" that shows older patients aren't getting the attention they need to benefit from consumerization strategies.
  • The top-three preferred channels by consumers are email, websites and text messaging — especially for baby boomers.
  • The biggest challenges to meeting consumer engagement goals are budget constraints (61 percent of providers vs. 54 percent of payers) and managing the complexities of implementation (40 percent of providers vs. 54 percent of payers).
  • The metrics being used to measure consumer engagement by both providers and payers, fall into the following categories:
    • quality/clinical — 77 percent
    • financial — 81 percent
    • patient experience — 92 percent

Payers, providers and consumers each have different agendas when it comes to engagement priorities and efficacy, and these insights are critical to informing investment strategies. Consumers want new and better tools because they now have a greater financial responsibility, but adoption by providers and payers has been slow as they struggle to break away from traditional ways of interacting and communicating with consumers.

Perhaps the most important finding for healthcare administrators is that technology investment is just a first step. Payers and providers must also capitalize on their investments, tailor experiences to what consumers want, promote adoption of these innovative services and solicit feedback — and that goes double for the largest part of the population, older patients.

Engagement requires more than tools alone.