Sofie Wise

James Wantuck

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About Author — Dr. Wantuck co-founded PlushCare to improve access to top-notch care. He attended medical school at Vanderbilt and completed his residency at Stanford University Medical Center in internal medicine.

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If you work in the healthcare industry, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the “consumerization of healthcare.” This refers, of course, to patients not just following the doctor’s orders, but actually shopping for, deciding between, and choosing the care they receive. Physicians and others often recoil at the thought of this: patients, they say, should remain passive; treating them as consumers fails to maintain the <a href=http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/22/opinion/22krugman.html?_r=1/>“sacred” physician-patient relationship, however, believe that it doesn’t have to be one or the other, patient or consumer. At PlushCare, we believe in treating people as both patient and consumer: the engaged patient. We give our expertise when needed to empower the patient to make decisions about their own health.

Despite this revolutionary thinking, offering patients a choice and a stake in their own care has been given a bad rap. The arguments against consumerizing healthcare often cite:

1. A history of failed programs.
While there have been failed consumerization programs in the past, these often have been in government-run programs such as medicare advantage that lacked the proper incentives and structure to drive quality and savings.

2. The patients lack of specialized knowledge.
This is a failure of education more than anything and can be relieved with technology and training. Doctors are experts and should have the time to educate patients and allow them to make informed decisions. Aided by the right technology and implemented in the right way, patients can be more informed than the doctor!

3. A lack of financial stake in the game on the part of patients.
As the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) drives more patients towards high deductible, high co-pay, value driven care patients will be more cautious in their utilization of resources. It’s hard to imagine thrifty spending when someone else is footing the bill (think about a teenager with their parents’ credit card).

Doctors fear this revolution both because they believe it will harm patients and because they fear change. The fear of harming patients is unfounded – rather we must find ways to enable them with the changing physician-patient power balance and inform them with education through technology. Doctors must adapt to this changing landscape by providing a better patient experience, communicating well, and continuously improving quality of their care instead of giving the same old, traditional healthcare experience that isn’t working. When the patient is paying, perhaps 5-year outcomes become less important than quality of life and relief from suffering through the healthcare system. Consumerization isn’t all bad – let’s align all parties incentives to give the best healthcare that money can buy.


PlushCare provides virtual doctor’s visits from the comfort of your home, office, or wherever you’re located. For $59 our world-class doctors will diagnose, treat, and prescribe you medication. For more information or to book an appointment, visit plushcare.com.