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Health care must learn from consumers to grow, report says

Illustration of a caduceus with a price tag

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

Health care businesses must be consumer-friendly to remain profitable, a recent McKinsey report finds.

Why it matters: The booming $1 trillion U.S. health and wellness market gives health care organizations a rare chance to command more business with better user experiences.

Zoom in: Patients are increasingly judicious health care shoppers, and health care organizations that provide consumers with accessible, affordable and high-quality care will prosper above those that don't, per the report.

  • Consumers are spending more on health and wellness but remain unsatisfied and seek more digital engagement and support.
  • People largely trust health care organizations with their data, and those businesses can do more with it.
  • In economically uncertain times, people are increasingly researching before making purchases — and frequently switching to more affordable options.

By the numbers: 58% of survey participants prioritize their personal health and wellness more now than they did a year ago, per the report.

  • Wellness deal activity rose 50% from 2020 to 2021, and in 2023 U.S. spending on the category topped $480 billion.
  • 45% of surveyed consumers research providers and in-network costs before choosing a health insurance plan, and 44% of people research providers before making an appointment.
  • More than half of people showed an interest in using their personal data to manage chronic conditions and get personalized health insights or product and insurance recommendations.
  • Yet McKinsey survey respondents also reported low levels of satisfaction with current tools designed to support healthy behaviors.

The big picture: It's time for health care to catch up with banking and retail and to meet patients where they are, the report suggests.

What they're saying: Health care organizations "need to place the consumer at the center of all they do," the authors write. "Only by improving care outcomes and consumer experience will they deliver financial returns and remain competitive."

What's next: The authors suggest multiple steps health care organizations should take, including …

  • Expand their community presence by developing partnerships with existing organizations and offering supplemental family support.
  • Employ remote monitoring, AI or integrated electronic health records to safely use consumer data following privacy and security regulations.
  • Personalize patient outreach and follow-up, potentially using AI to proactively identify care needs and using generative AI to draft messages for clinicians to sign off on.
  • Help people with decision-making using navigation and projected cost tools.

The bottom line: "In the years to come, it will be critical for the health care industry to prioritize digital consumer engagement — both to keep pace with other industries and to meet evolving consumer expectations," the report authors write.

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