The Meaning Of Consumer Centricity

First, providers and payers need to understand what drives consumers

There may be a certain irony in the fact that healthcare – which gets to know consumers more intimately than almost any other industry – has more trouble than most figuring out what it means to be consumer-centric. But such is the case.

In healthcare, consumer-centric remains an emerging concept. The complexity of the services, payment structures, and even emotions involved seems to have made “consumer-centric” an excellent, yet hard-to achieve aspiration.

Thus, the answer may be to look outside healthcare to businesses where putting customer needs first has made more progress – and consult one of the leading gurus of innovation, Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen. In 2016, Christensen came up with a simple question that industries must answer to understand how they can become more consumer-centric: “What job is the customer trying to get accomplished when they buy a certain service or product?”


Christensen first applied this “Jobs To Be Done” framework to the fast-food chain McDonald’s in a study of why people bought milkshakes. It turned out that people bought milkshakes in the morning before 8:30 – a surprising timeframe for the biggest milk shake sales of the day – because they were looking for something that would keep them engaged as they traveled to work, something easy to handle while driving or otherwise commuting, and something that would keep them full through the morning. Later in the day, another peak sales period developed around parents picking up their children from school and wanting an experience they could share with them as they discussed how the day had gone.

When McDonald’s tried to increase sales by offering more flavors or improving the ingredients, it missed the mark. What customers needed was a thicker milkshake that would last longer and an easier, faster way to buy it that didn’t involve waiting on a line of people getting full meals.

So what is the lesson here for healthcare? A busy mother bringing in a child with an ear infection doesn’t just want a same-day appointment and a prescription – although both are obviously a given for getting this job done. The mom also is looking for peace of mind – that the ear infection isn’t something more serious, that there is a treatment that will allow the child to be comfortable and for her to get some sleep, and finally, that the doctor cares as much about her child as she does. All those things require – besides the same-day appointment and prescription – giving the doctor time to listen and answer questions. It may even require a follow-up call the next day to check on the patient’s progress.


When healthcare providers start thinking about the motivations of patients and the jobs to be done for them, they will stop thinking of the consumer healthcare path as merely a series of services and activities. They will begin to make healthcare more consumer-centric.

How might the industry recast its multitude of offerings, procedures, services, and products using this "Jobs To Be Done" lens? The first step is to move beyond a narrow view of healthcare – a patient sitting with a doctor in an exam room or waiting for an MRI at a hospital. The industry must think through the full spectrum of activities individuals undertake in the quest to improve and maintain their physical and mental health.

These activities are often fraught with uncertainty. Consumers struggle with making and sustaining healthy choices related to nutrition and physical activity. They have trouble fitting medical care into their busy lives, with its 9-to-5 weekday schedule. They are unsure how their health decisions today will affect their finances tomorrow. What’s more, they are increasingly being forced to navigate the system not only for themselves and their children, but also for their aging parents. Taking this broader perspective, it is clear that the most salient consumer health issues are often ones never addressed within the four walls of most medical facilities.


Source: Oliver Wyman analysis


To achieve consumer-centricity, healthcare organizations must start to visualize the consumer journey from start to finish, even if that journey takes them outside of traditional healthcare. Using findings from the 2017 Oliver Wyman survey of over 2,000 healthcare consumers, we have compiled five steps to help healthcare leaders tackle the most pressing Jobs To Be Done for healthcare consumers:

1. Streamline access to healthcare:

Consumers are done with a healthcare model that has them waiting weeks for a routine appointment. The Oliver Wyman survey found that consumers want healthcare on their terms, and on their schedule. That means they are looking for guaranteed same-day access, telemedicine options, evening and weekend hours, and even in-home visits. In a world in which you can do a session with a psychiatrist by phone or receive immediate medical guidance from a smart speaker, traditional healthcare needs to catch up or risk being marginalized.

2. Demystify the financial implications of healthcare: Over the past few years, consumers have taken on more and more financial responsibility for their own healthcare. Most consumers, however, remain perplexed when it comes to determining how their decisions affect their costs or how those expenses might be balanced against the likely outcomes. Guidance on the financial implications of healthcare decisions was one of the top needs identified in the Oliver Wyman survey; but such guidance is, for the most part, not forthcoming in today’s healthcare system.

3. Make clinical decision making easier: The rise of narrow healthcare networks may not be a negative. Consumers in our survey saw narrow networks as potential value-add features that they would actually pay extra for. The catch: Those networks had to be curated to include only the highest-quality, highest value, most convenient providers. Consumers don’t want a glut of meaningless choice; they want the tools, information, and guardrails to make good decisions. That may include a healthcare navigator, available in-person or via a preferred electronic channel, and access to user-friendly, personalized data that helps them chart their own path.

4. Support consumers as they care for others: The changing demographics of America are contributing to a burgeoning sandwich generation caring for both their children and aging parents. These caregivers are actively looking for ways to improve their healthcare, our survey shows. Given the expanding population of seniors, finding a way to serve this demographic is critical for healthcare organizations. Among needed caregiver solutions: Streamline the sharing of health and financial information; expand the approach to telemedicine to allow caregivers to join visits remotely; and extend support for travel and lodging.

5. Help consumers maintain active, independent lives: The current healthcare system excels at solving acute issues. It is far less effective at maintaining overall health and wellness. Yet, one of the top concerns of the aging baby boomer is precisely the latter. They worry about their declining mobility and increased reliance on others for support. Given those concerns, top projects to pursue shouldn’t be new hospitals, but rather facilities geared toward helping people stay active and participate. Such a facility might include fitness areas; in-house nutritionists; places to shop for healthy meals and learn how to cook them; and access to support groups to help maintain behavioral health, to name a few.

The healthcare industry must begin to recognize that consumers know what they want even if they can’t always articulate it or pick it out amid industry jargon. If healthcare providers and payers want to be driven by consumers and their needs on this journey to health and wellness, then they’re going to have to let consumers take the wheel occasionally.

About the Authors

Patrick Barlow is a New York-based partner in Oliver Wyman’s Health & Life Sciences practice.

John Rudoy is a San Francisco-based principal in Oliver Wyman’s Health & Life Sciences practice.

Click here to review the 2017 Consumer Survey of US Healthcare.

The Meaning Of Consumer Centricity