The other day I was involved in a workshop that surfaced an intriguing question: While health systems want to play a larger role in people’s everyday lives – proving new value, contributing to population health goals, securing greater loyalty and new revenue – how much interest do people have in “going deeper” with health systems?

In a recent column, Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard Tyson wrote, “One important opportunity is to envision a system built around “health.” He continues, “[W]e can extend the investment in health by moving up-stream toward maximizing healthy life years.”

Certainly, provider systems everywhere are taking a more holistic view of consumers and health. At the same time, brand and business vulnerability exist at the intersection of consumer need and innovation (e.g., for “robo-health” monitoring, One Medical Group for direct primary care, Arivale for data driven health coaching in a “wellness practice”).

People interact with health care throughout their life on an everyday basis and their interest in “health” comes in many shapes and sizes. The question remains; will consumers give provider health systems “permission” to move up-stream to drive meaningful, business-building engagement and transform consumers’ view of their brand?

My workshop concluded that, “If a product or service meets my needs I’ll choose it, regardless of brand,” suggesting provider system expansion into these types of care areas can be successful. The Advisory Board offers a caution, however. “[Employers, payers and consumers’] reluctance to embrace large, integrated systems stems at least in part from a lack of demonstrated value…This skepticism reflects a concern that increased health system size has only led to higher prices, that mergers and acquisitions did not result in any long-term efficiencies passed on to buyers, and that the continued use of opaque and exorbitant hospital charges reflects an unwillingness to truly compete in a consumer-driven market. In this light, it is no surprise that new entrants may seem more attractive than older, established incumbents.”

And in that tension may lie the answer: Consumers have demonstrated time and time again their flexibility in understanding new things about brands. That’s not the barrier. It’s the ability to meet (and communicate understanding of and sensitivity to) consumer needs that will ultimately hold back provider systems from building the larger, more committed up-stream relationships they seek.

Will consumers commit to a deeper relationship with large, established health systems? Absolutely – but the inability to meet value-based needs are holding them back.


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Dan Miers

Chief Strategy Officer at SPM Marketing & Communications
Dan anticipates “what’s next” in our complex industry and keeps SPM on the leading edge of healthcare policy and strategy. A valuable resource to all SPM clients, his strategic insights focus how we understand and apply industry trends to client issues. With 20 years of experience, Dan has two master’s degrees in healthcare administration and finance, worked in business development at an academic medical center, and launched a healthcare technology company. He is also a frequent speaker at industry events and an active member of the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development (SHSMD).
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