You may have noticed several big businesses in the news recently capitulating to customer outrage over new and unnecessary (or completely gratuitous) fees. Bank of America made news in late 2011 when it tried to institute a $5 fee for any customer that wanted to use a debit card. Verizon made a similar move when it tried to put in place a $2 fee for payment made by phone or Web. (Really? You’re going to charge me to pay you?)
I’d even go so far as to lump Netflix’s blunderings in 2011 in with this group. First the price increase, and then the ultimately jettisoned decision to split the business into two product lines – one for DVDs and one for streaming. Though customer outrage wasn’t enough to derail the price increase, I can only assume the backlash had something to do with the decision to ultimately stay with one brand for both services.
As Erika Morphy wrote in a recent Forbes.com article, “It doesn’t take much to enrage consumers these days and while Verizon doesn’t fall in the ignominious category of [a] Wall Street bank, it doesn’t exactly engender fierce customer loyalty or devotion either, the way, for example, Apple does.”
She hit the nail on the head, in my opinion. No matter what your opinion of the Occupy Wall Street movement, I believe it has made the average US consumer more confident in their dealings with Big Business, more apt to cry foul when companies like Bank of America and Verizon try to pull more money out of people’s pockets just because they can. (I know I’m oversimplifying things here, and that these companies have seemingly valid reasons for these fees.) As any healthcare vendor will tell you, being in business is ultimately about the bottom line. So it stands to reason that Big Business will always want to get bigger.
To bring it back around to healthcare, I firmly believe that the customer’s newfound voice of “We’re not going to take it anymore” should be applied to healthcare. Consumers are patients and vice versa. At the end of the day, we all want the best care possible for the least amount of money and inconvenience. Let’s take these lessons learned in the traditionally consumer world and apply them to the patient experience.
Are you looking for a new family practitioner? Choose one that has high quality outcomes, has effectively been using an electronic medical record, is willing to explain the benefits of a homegrown personal health record, and is happy to coordinate care with your specialist two counties away. For that matter, you could make similar demands of your health insurance provider.
I know interoperability isn’t always at the top of our to do lists when it comes time to go to the doctor – often a sudden and unplanned event. If you find yourself being cared for by a doc that’s getting by with paper, become an advocate for change within that practice when the time is right.
It doesn’t hurt to start a dialogue. And as Big Business has shown us, using your voice can actually bring about better outcomes for all.