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Engage Consumers August 24, 2015

Yelp for Health: Stand Out With Transparency, Access, Personalization

Partner, Health & Life Sciences, Oliver Wyman

Yelp recently announced a new partnership with ProPublica to make data on hospitals, dialysis centers, and nursing homes available to consumers on its review pages, as reported by the Washington Post. Consumers can now look up hospital wait times, the quality of doctor communications, noise levels, readmission rates, and other quality markers. Oliver Wyman Partner Helen Leis explains why this move is yet another step in the evolution towards more consumer-centric shopping markets for healthcare:

The Yelp announcement is a great step forward in giving consumers credible information about the quality and experience they can expect from healthcare providers, just like the information they would find for restaurants, hair salons, and hotels. Our research shows consumers are already more likely to seek advice about a health concern on Pinterest or Instagram than to contact a physician, and in an earlier post we examined innovative startups similarly focused on value transparency.

But why is the timing right now for this consumer-driven health market to finally take shape? We’ve been talking about the consumer in healthcare and health insurance for more than a century: It’s been 100 years since the first Blues plan was founded, 50 years have passed since LBJ signed off on Medicare, and we’ve experienced 40+ years of shared decision making, 30+ years of ambulatory urgent care, 22 years of health savings accounts, and 16 years of Medicare and Medicaid reimbursing for telemedicine.

Follow the data and you’ll see the same trend. Today, in an average year, the average American is paying nearly all of his or her own healthcare costs. This is a first. In the past, winning with the consumer was about being the best of the worst, because they were spending someone else’s healthcare dollars. Now, it’s their money, and they are making tradeoffs between healthcare and rent and transportation—or their smartphone bills, apparel, and entertainment. That fundamentally changes the dynamic pushing health plans and healthcare to be the best of the best.

Now the context is that healthcare organizations have to compete with everything else that consumers buy—not just other healthcare needs. – Oliver Wyman Partner Helen Leis

In a world where the average American cannot sign a check for $2K to pay a medical bill in 30 days, healthcare organizations have to engage differently. They have to convince consumers not to spend on something that is not healthcare, and to spend it on medical services instead.  Now the context is that healthcare organizations have to compete with everything else that consumers buy—not just other healthcare needs. So if we want to engage consumers in this shifting marketplace, we have to help them go shopping. Here are 3 tools to guide consumers as they shop for health—and increase the odds they will find you:

  • Transparency. Consumers don’t know where to go to get good information about healthcare providers or health plans. As consumers, we want to know how to live better and be healthier. But there is so much conflicting information: Should I care about my cholesterol?  Should I eat eggs or not? Should I avoid fat to protect my heart? Or avoid sugar to lower my risk of cancer? There are thousands of health apps available in the iPhone store; 21 of them are on my smartphone, allowing me to measure my pulse and respiration rate on the go. You can find apps with yoga poses, calorie counters, activity trackers, claims status checks, drugstore rewards, doc appointments, prescription refills, and ER locations. We are awash in data but have very few insights, and even fewer actionable items that are customized to our needs and that will keep us engaged on a sustainable basis in managing our health. Across sectors a number of payers, regulators – and even a few providers – are jumping on the transparency bandwagon to take the mystery out of healthcare costs and quality and engage consumers in informed decision making.
  • A front door. Consumers need multiple, easy ways to access the system. These entry points can’t be segmented, just like you can’t pigeonhole an Amazon customer who the next day may walk into a Walmart. In the past few years, providers, retailers, consumer technology organizations, and even payers have been investing in new forms of access and care – with an eye towards offering modalities that are approachable, always available, easy to navigate, lower cost, and transparently priced.
  • Personalization. The science is moving faster than the industry here. Consumers are quickly gaining more knowledge about their own health and options than their physicians have. We have to embrace that education and engage consumers as partners in managing their health instead of saying “put away that WebMD, 23andme, or finger stick from the CVS, just listen to me because I’m the expert”. In the world where it’s their money, they are the expert. Providers and payers can further engage consumers thanks to improved predictive modeling and big data that can create highly personalized care plans and benefit packages for individuals.

The Yelp information, explained company CEO Jeremy Stoppelman in a blog post, will be compiled by ProPublica from their own research and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for 4,600 hospitals, 15,000 nursing homes, and 6,300 dialysis clinics in the US and will be updated quarterly.

Adds Stoppelman: “Now the millions of consumers who use Yelp to find and evaluate everything from restaurants to retail will have even more information at their fingertips when they are in the midst of the most critical life decisions, like which hospital to choose for a sick child or which nursing home will provide the best care for aging parents.”

The question for the industry is: Will your organization be one of those organizations at consumers’ fingertips when they’re ready to make that critical life decision?

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