Patients are demonstrating they like going online to find, research and rate hospitals and physicians.
A February 2017 survey of 314 consumers by Internet Health Management found that 63% had created a personalized account on a healthcare website that gives them access to their health data and ways to communicate with their doctors. 56% said they frequently visit non-hospital websites such as WebMD.com to research medical conditions and doctors. A separate study by the American Medical Association found 59% of Americans think online doctor ratings are important and 54% of patients 18 to 24 use the web as their primary way to find a doctor. But hospitals appear to be lagging behind patient demand in these areas. Only 53—10.6%—of Digital Hospital 500 systems offer physician ratings and reviews on their website, and only 11.2% (53) and 4.6% (23), respectively, have digital health features that let patients add or update their personal information and view treatment plans for their medical conditions. The hospital market is consolidating—and shrinking.
In 2016 there were 5,627 U.S. hospitals, down from 6,100 hospitals a decade earlier, according to the American Hospital Association. Since 2010 there have been more than 500 hospital mergers including 89 in 2016, according to an analysis by PwC Health Research Institute. So far in 2017 there have been eight big hospital merger deals valuated at over $1 billion each such as the intended merger of Beth Israel Deaconess and Lahey in Boston.
Hospitals also are no longer the only place consumers are turning to for medical care—including online. For example, drugstore chain CVS Health operates more than 1,000 walk-in clinics nationwide. CVS and Walgreen Co. also are among a wave of non-health system companies moving into offering patients more digital doctor options, including for dermatology consults. Not the only game “We (hospitals) are no longer the only game in town,” says Joe Brennan, senior director of MedNow for Spectrum Health System (No. 188).
Spectrum Health is a non-profit health system with 11 hospitals and headquartered in Grand Rapids. Mich. The health system was an early adopter of digital healthcare among hospitals in Michigan—including the first to offer a telehealth service for patients both inside and outside the hospital, Brennan says. In 2006 Spectrum Health began posting average prices for many of its common procedures on its website and in 2008 added information on what Medicare, Medicaid and commercial health insurers paid the health system on average for procedures. In 2009 Spectrum also launched an online cost estimator based on the average prices listed for nearly 250 adult procedures.
Two years later, Spectrum updated its MySpectrum digital healthcare portal with features that allow patients to set up a family account, access benefits and eligibility information from Spectrum’s Priority Health plan, view growth charts for children and see immunization records. The MySpectrum portal also enables patients to view lab results, e-mail their doctor, renew prescriptions, request appointments for routine doctor visits and preregister for some procedures, pay bills for hospital services, and track health conditions, allergies and medications.
In the last year as Spectrum has also shifted the marketing of MedNow, its consumer telehealth program, away from traditional advertising such as billboards and to personalized e-mail campaigns and advertising via social media. That’s had an impact: The number of MedNow digital doctor visits has more than tripled in the past year to about 9,000 telehealth consultations from 3,000 consultations.
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