I’m guessing you’ve been hearing this word a lot lately. And for good reason, as many of us are indeed becoming better consumers. Consumerism positively affects many parts of our lives, from the food we eat to the clothes, cars and electronics we buy. Becoming a more informed consumer is helping us make better, more informed decisions. This is increasingly true about healthcare as well.

Consumerism is beginning to reshape the landscape of the healthcare industry. The healthcare industry is transforming an employer’s health benefit plan into one that puts more decision-making into the hands of their employees (and their employees’ dependents).

We’re no longer content with letting others make all our decisions, but we’re becoming more comfortable in seeking out the best solutions for ourselves. However, it’s still often confusing and frustrating to get the type of information we need in order to feel comfortable making an impact on the care we receive – and the price we pay.

While seven out of ten consumers believe they are responsible for managing their health, many of them struggle due to a lack of necessary tools. The healthcare industry is a complex web of options with little transparency in regards to pricing and benefits. To support their employees, employers should implement a strategy that provides access to information and decision-making support tools. Incentivizing personal involvement in healthcare purchasing behaviors through financial rewards and other benefits is also crucial. By playing an active role in healthcare consumerism, employers can decrease their own and their employees’ costs, while promoting long-term improvements in their employees’ health.

Over past decade, healthcare has experienced a marked increase in consumerism. More than ever, people view themselves as consumers with choices to make in their healthcare options. Quality and cost are key factors in decision-making, but despite the growing availability of quality metrics, there are still gaps in information that make it difficult to differentiate between doctors and hospitals. Additionally, health plan restrictions and other limitations can limit patient choice.

However, the healthcare industry has responded to the trend of consumerism with new initiatives that aim to provide further information and choice. As consumers become more empowered, healthcare is undergoing a shift in the type of care provided. For employers, this shift presents significant opportunities for growth in the coming months and years.

Are you educating your employees on effective healthcare tools and options? If you need more help or additional information on consumerism, contact an MMA advisor today.

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