A New Frontier: Is Your Leadership Ready for Consumer-Centric Healthcare?

By Rick Cassidy

Driven by personal experiences with companies like Amazon, Uber, and Netflix, consumers are demanding more from healthcare providers and suppliers when making decisions.  The rising costs of premiums coupled with stagnant or declining benefit levels have pushed consumers to their limit. They’re ready for a change.

Whether providing care to patients or insurance to consumers, healthcare organizations must rethink the way they interact with the people they serve. Leading organizations have already begun to take steps toward enacting drastic, disruptive change.

Major Retailers Target Healthcare Industry

Health plan members want choice, value, and accountability from their health insurance carrier. This has prompted the largest, most successful corporations to think and behave disruptively about how health services are delivered. For example:

The common denominator between Walmart and Amazon is their shared consumer-centric business models, and tomorrow’s healthcare executives will need to determine how to reinvent themselves to achieve it.

Consumer-Centric Leadership Skills

The success of Amazon, Walmart, CVS, and other successful organizations rests on the shoulders of their leadership and commitment to the consumer. Here’s a snapshot of the skills expected of future healthcare leaders:

  • Willingness to listen and change. Jeff Bezos himself was never afraid to backtrack when things didn’t go according to plan. Amazon’s year-over-year shift to offering customers more of what they wanted and less of what they didn’t is a testament to that fact.  Many delivery systems courageously engage their consumers and families in councils to understand their expectations.
  • Action. Consumers have had enough lip service. Once they’re heard by leadership and request change, they want to know what actions will be taken to accomplish those changes. Future leaders need to be prepared to traverse the healthcare landscape to seek out and implement the solutions that customers want.
  • Strong technology and robotic focus. Between technology changing the way healthcare services are delivered to patients and the overwhelming use of digital devices to do everything from socializing to purchasing homes, consumer-facing technology is in high demand.  There’s an opportunity for healthcare leaders to satisfy this consumer desire for convenience.
  • Advocacy for the consumer. Healthcare plan members hate the feeling of being just another number on a premium roster. They want to know that you’re standing behind them and fighting for what they value most, even sometimes at the short-term expense of your organization’s profit margin.
  • Map the customer’s end-to-end journey. The responsibility of improving customer experiences across the enterprise is dependent upon an understanding of the customer’s perception of the entire journey, not just one touchpoint. Leaders who desire positions in consumer-centric healthcare must develop a way to measure the journey throughout the entire continuum—from purchasing health care benefits to receiving them—to gain valuable insights.
  • Reinforce and expect consumer-centric behavior with frontline staff. It’s not enough to promote your organization as consumer-centric—customers must have that experience whether they speak with a customer service rep, ask a janitor for directions, or speak with a healthcare professional. Leaders must encourage and model customer-centric behavior while working with HR, the training department, and middle management to retain staff who are aligned with the organization’s values.

New Leadership Positions on the Horizon

As Fortune 100 companies get closer to disrupting the healthcare delivery system and insurance industry, new leadership positions designed to put the customer at the heart of operations will be undeniably critical to the organization’s mission.

We are already noticing new C-suite openings taking the stage in order to implement this change, such as:

  • Chief Change Officer (CCO). This individual will be responsible for leading the change management department. Unlike a traditional organization, this is not “change management” that occurs from within. Rather, this is change inspired by customer feedback and data. This leadership role will need to work across silos to make an impact.
  • Chief Accountability Officer (CAO). Accountability is one of the qualities customers feel is lacking in the current healthcare environment. A customer-centric organization can address this deficit by appointing a Chief Accountability Officer. Traditionally, this position is responsible for fiscal accountability, however, a consumer-centric operating model requires leaders in this position to be accountable for all aspects of business operation. The CAO would work directly with the COO, CFO, CCO (above), and CCXO (below) to ensure all aspects of the business were aligned to the customer’s needs.
  • Chief Customer Experience Officer (CCXO). The Chief Customer Experience Officer engages leadership at all levels and whose team is responsible for fielding and addressing customer concerns, evaluating customer satisfaction, promoting customer engagement, and mapping the customer experience. The CCXO plays a critical role in keeping the organization focused on the customer’s needs.

The Signals are Clear: Don’t Get Left Behind

Seismic shifts in consumer behavior bring two choices: adapt and evolve, or lose market share. As giants like Amazon and Walmart are vying for a larger piece of the healthcare pie, only the most innovative leaders who prove they are customer-obsessed will survive. Do you have what it takes?

Rick Cassidy is the founder and president of Sky Search Partners

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About Sky Search Partners

Rick Cassidy, Sky Search Partners president, founded the firm for one primary reason: We love putting people to work. Sky Search Partners has developed a rigorous platform for engaging, researching, and connecting with the most successful executive talent. The firm executes with a laser focus on to identify candidates precisely aligned to search specifications. A proven formula of integrity and “people first” enables it to build trusted relationships with organizations and top-tier talent across key disciplines, job titles, national markets, and industry classes. This enables client organizations to create their “dream team,” especially in highly competitive environments where results are imperative.

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