CONSUMERS: Wield More Power in Health Care Market
Consumers will play an increasingly influential role in the health care industry and will likely fuel a "consumer-driven health care market," Harvard Business School Professor Regina E. Herzlinger said yesterday at a Nashville Health Care Council conference. And, she adds, both providers and insurers "must adapt or die." Herzlinger offered her predictions for the future of health care, saying she believes that the Internet will have a "profound impact" on the way coverage and care are structured. She added that the "explosion of medical information available on the Internet will give consumers more influence on how care is delivered, driving down prices and driving up quality as hospitals and doctors are forced to respond." In addition, she maintains that employers will allow employees to choose their own insurance plans and insurers will offer a variety of options to consumers. Herlinger explained that "[o]ne-size-fits-all insurance coverage and government payments will disappear. ... Insurance companies will offer different packages of coverage just as mutual funds offer investors choices on what industries they want to invest in." Seth Frank, an analyst with SunTrust Equitable Securities and panelist at the Nashville convention, agreed that the Internet will serve as a catalyst in shaping a more consumer-driven health care market, but he cautioned that people may not immediately utilize the available information. "[G]rowth will be linear. It'll take time," he said. Herzlinger believes that current unrest with the system will fuel quick changes, saying the "'Net is the engine of change in health care, it is the American public's desire for convenience and its dissatisfaction with managed-care insurance that will drive the nation to a private' sector market" (Snider, Nashville Tennessean, 9/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.