Are today’s healthcare users more like consumers?

In recent years, the provision of healthcare has not only shifted, but continues to evolve and change rapidly, whether in countries with state-healthcare such as the UK or Canada, or private, for-profit services like the US system. The advances that have been made aren’t simply in medical knowledge; we’ve seen great leaps in therapies, treatments, drugs technology and facilities and these areas are continuing to develop and grow.

Greater medical knowledge has created more knowledgeable patients

At one time, service users and patients were relatively poorly informed about health conditions and diseases, meaning they had to trust implicitly the advice of their medical professional or establishment. Thanks to public awareness campaigns from bodies like Public Health England, the general population has greater knowledge about the causes of certain health conditions or diseases, as well as the ability to instantly search for health information online. Patients and their families are now more informed, more aware and more discerning than ever before.

This new level of empowerment, along with more transparency into the medical profession and a focus on preventing misdiagnoses and mistakes has shifted healthcare users’ expectations. When coupled with a diversification in the provision of certain healthcare authorities and the emergence of private healthcare insurance in the UK, it’s created a level of consumerism, where patients have treatment options and healthcare providers need to bridge the gap between the expectation and the treatment.

Does healthcare consumerism create a problem?

On the one hand, having a patient that is more informed, understanding of their condition and can even take some responsibility for the treatment plan is a big positive and increases the chances of successful recovery, however it can be a double-edged sword.

Turning previously passive service users into active and engaged consumers, each with their own expectations and ability to choose other options for their healthcare can create issues for healthcare leaders. Just as with any other business, the customer journey becomes increasingly important, with customers wanting to feel valued and have a positive, personalised healthcare experience.

The differences between public and private healthcare providers and the differing levels of service provided by different regional trusts highlight why healthcare managers need to consider customer satisfaction a top priority.

Can healthcare leaders keep up with the pace of change?

The shift in the dynamic between patient and doctor – or even patient and healthcare trust – could be a problem if healthcare leaders fail to adapt. There have been a number of large changes over the last few decades and more can certainly be expected in the coming years. Increased focus on healthcare spending, greater scrutiny by Government and news outlets taking more interest in the events surrounding public healthcare add a level of pressure to the role of leaders in healthcare provision. The ability to use the foundations of good leadership to navigate the challenges that public and private healthcare bodies face and allow departments and teams to perform to their best could be critical.

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There are up to six start dates per year, programmes have pay-per-module options and students can apply for a government-backed loan to assist with course fees, helping to remove the financial burden of furthering your career.

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