Just Trust in Me

24 Apr Just Trust in Me

Trust (trŭst) n.
  1. Firm reliance on the integrity, ability, or character of a person or thing.
  2. The condition and resulting obligation of having confidence placed in one.
  3. Something committed into the care of another; custody or charge.

With a small and growing family, I have had the privilege to see more Disney movies than should be humanly allowed. One of my favorite movies is the Jungle Book, and one of my favorite characters is Kaa, the snake with the kaleidoscope eyes. Kaa is constantly trying to lure Mowgli into his grasp by lulling him to sleep. You recall the gravely voiced crooning:


Trussst in me
Jussst in Me
Ssshut your Eyesss
and trussst in me

Ssslip in to sssilent ssslumber
Sssail on a sssilver missst
Ssslowly and sssurely your sssensssesss
Will csseassse to resssissst

I thought of Kaa as I was reading through an interesting report recently published by Booz Allen Hamilton. Apparently, Booz comissioned Harris Interactive to poll 3,000 consumers and 600 physicians to examine “how the transition to a retail market in health care is impacting decision-making and influencing behavior“. I found the results intriguing, but must have missed the commentary on the blogosphere, because I have seen little chatter about what I consider fascinating insights.

First, health plans are in real trouble with their consumer members. Consumers consider health plans among the LEAST trustworthy source of health information, probably ranking below union leaders, local politicians, and used car salesman. Wow. This isn’t really knews to me (or anyone with insurance), but the fact that the organization that is consuming most of your health resources is the same organization that no one trusts, seems highly problematic. The Health Plans are merely reaping the rewards from their decades long entrenchment in the zero-sum game of cost shifting complimented by their industry wide “culture of denial”. The consumer experiences this as “a bureacracy, administrative costs, restricting physician’s and patient’s choice, limiting services, attempting to micromanage medical practice, and generally gumming up the works through adversarial relationships with both providers and members” (RHC, 229). They spent their trust capital by raising the price without improving the health outcome or increasing patient value.

Second, changing this perception and consumer mindset will be a mind-numbing task. As I have discussed repeatedly in the Health 2.0 conversation, consumer patients are looking for an entirely different experience with regards to medical information. They not only want access to credible information from reliable sources, but they are willing to engage (and therefore pay) trusted third parties for the opportunity to navigate through the opacity of the current healthcare morass. There are multiple points along the full cycle of care, where trusted third parties can add value to the interaction by aggregating information, analyzing data, and advising consumers on how to optimize healthcare value (outcomes/price). Changing the physician mindset, and their current negative slant toward consumerism, will be the topic for another day.

Third, the study shows that consumers lack the information and advice needed to compare alternatives and make informed choices (what I have dubbed “rational healthcare decision” making). According to David G. Knott, Senior Vice President at Booz Allen:

“Both consumers and physicians want better information on the cost and quality of health products and services. However, they disagree on the most trusted sources to fill the current information void. Consumers are turning away from traditional information sources such as employers and the government, in search of new, independent sources such as Consumer Reports.

Consumers are looking for trusted, non-conflicted, third-parties who can provide them value by aggregating information, analyzing data, and advising them on health and wellness issues. This is the opportunity for an entire range of new healthcare information technology companies to step in, step up, or step off the stage. This is the reasons new companies like Vimo are trying to become the trusted “Consumer Reports of Healthcare”, why Sermo is trying to be the “trusted voice of the physician Community“, and why HealthEquity wants you to trust them to “Better save and spend your health equity“. They value your trust, and will do everything they can to maintain that trust by delivering ongoing value.

Wake up! The old paradigm of “Just Trust in Me” has “ssslipped away into a sssilver mistsss”.

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