Listening to the consumer perspective has never been more important to the US healthcare system’s ability to improve the health of Americans than it is now. With the rising tide of chronic diseases, patients must administer their own care and monitor lifestyles more than ever before. Many are better informed of their health options with greater access to information online about medical issues, insurance plans and hospital quality. The persistence of the debates about healthcare reform in the national dialogue shows how much consumers care about how policymakers and health system decision-makers respond to their needs. In the US, we can learn a great deal from other countries about how to amplify the consumer voice to improve health.
With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Rabin Martin set out to investigate global lessons on leveraging the consumer voice to build a culture of health in the US by convening a group of 13 international health experts at a roundtable during the World Health Summit in Berlin, Germany, in October 2014. Rabin Martin’s new report “Consumer Power to Build Better Health Systems” outlines compelling examples from that roundtable of how consumer involvement is making health systems more effective, from India to the Netherlands to the United Arab Emirates.
Take iWantGreatCare in the UK, for example. iWantGreatCare is a patient review aggregator website that has harnessed the power of consumer participation in social media to provide meaningful, useful feedback to health care institutions. Even as the popularity of patient review portals such as healthgrades, RateMD and Vitals has grown rapidly in the US, providers and health care administrators have had valid reservations about the information that these sites collect, especially given challenges around verifying reviews and distilling such large amounts of commentary into useful information to inform their practices. iWantGreatCare analyzes patient reviews from all hospitals and clinics in the UK’s National Health Service and turns the findings into data on quality and patient experience that those institutions can understand easily and put to use. Adding features to patient review websites in the US such as easily digestible data presentation for hospitals and clinics, real-time reporting on potential quality flags, and comment verification for patient reviews can make review data more credible and useful for clinical practices.
We can look to the United Arab Emirates’ Weqaya national screening program and web portal for lessons on how to empower consumers and patients with data. Weqaya helps patients learn about and manage their personal cardiac health through a secure cloud-based web portal that houses all of their patient data, supports appointment booking and provides text message reminders and other mHealth services. Studies have shown that people who participate in Weqaya are better engaged in care, have lower risk of diabetes, and maintain healthier cholesterol levels than those who do not. As platforms that monitor daily health metrics like Fitbit and Jawbone continue to grow in popularity in the US, there is an opportunity to use them as conduits to connect consumers with health care services, from nutritional coaching courses to emergency care, just as the Weqaya platform has done.
The magnitude and complexity of the health issues that the United States faces are vast – but so is the potential for the consumer perspective to improve health outcomes. To capitalize on this in the US, we should pay more attention to the strides that others have made internationally to apply consumer insight towards achieving better health outcomes. Unleashing the power of the consumer voice at all levels can help health institutions in the US adopt more holistic, collaborative and effective solutions to build a culture of health.
You can download the “Consumer Power to Build Better Health Systems” report here.