Private hospitals respond to growth in consumerism

More private healthcare providers are set to consolidate a presence in the self-pay market to boost their business.

According to the lead researcher for Intuition Communication’s self-pay report (see front page), many have been doing extensive consumer research and investing in their customer-facing infrastructure – including their online presence.

Liz Heath

Liz Heath

Liz Heath told Independent Pract­itioner Today: ‘The changing demographic of the self-pay market means clinicians and providers need to widen their appeal and make their services and organisations more accessible and welcoming.

‘For example, increasingly restricted funding for routine NHS procedures such as hernia repair, cataract surgery, arthroscopy and even joint replacement is leading to individuals choosing to “go private” for the first time.’

Clinicians and providers recognised that working together more closely to a common purpose in the self-pay market would become increasingly important, she said.

But this behaviour was still patchy. ‘Clinicians need to push harder to engage with providers to develop products, services and pathways that genuinely have consumer appeal; and providers need to respond positively to this opportunity.’

Some consultants were using a range of media and opportunities to promote their specialty, individual service and performance – including surgical outcomes.

‘We believe that this behaviour needs to be more widely adopted and better disseminated to provide consumers with information to support their decision making.’

Mrs Heath said providers recognised the need to invest further in developing the self-pay marketing – not only in marketing and promotion but also in delivering improved customer service.

‘They recognise that adding value to the self-pay experience across a wider patient pathway is important in influencing consumer decision-making and that such added value may not add noticeably to overall costs.’

Her study showed much improved access to information for the consumer, compared to her last report two years ago. This included guide prices for procedures, consultant fees, terms and conditions and signposting to either online or telephone help.

But this still needed further development. ‘The wider dissemination of quality and outcome measures in the private sector will help equip the consumer with a far greater range of decision making tools and clinicians and providers need to ensure they are ready to manage this shift.’