When you hear the word “empowerment,” it’s code for “You’re on your own, pal.”
Health care leaders are starting to recognize that consumers are becoming a major decision-making force. Let’s be clear at the outset: The rise of the consumer is not the panacea that will solve all our problems. It is a reality that hospitals and health systems must respond to. For the foreseeable future, consumers will pay more for health care and be more involved in picking plans, providers and individual treatment options. This development means significant financial consequences for consumers (unlike almost any other developed country).
Providers need to understand the financial predicament of the typical American health consumer and the responses consumers are making in this changing environment. At the same time, with a new congress and a political season of primaries and posturing just around the corner, pundits, politicians and plutocrats need to recognize where consumers are as voters, plan members, employees, patients and family members.
In 2015 I think there is a good chance we’ll see a major security incident along the lines of this month’s Sony hack. This event will be like 9/11, in the sense that there will be a before and an after, and life as we know it will change forever. This has been coming for a long time. We’ll finally see how vulnerable we are and there will be a public outcry, most likely leading to some kind of government action. Up until now, most incidents have been security breaches of the disgruntled employee and clueless user variety, which are a huge big deal as far as HIPAA lawyers and privacy advocates are concerned, but not a very real threat to anybody.
This will be the real thing, with potentially disastrous results. I don’t know if this will be an attack on Healthcare.gov by a politically-motivated hacker group. (I’m surprised it hasn’t happened already. ) Or an attack on a academic hospital system designed to acquire potentially valuable patient and research data. Or a hack of a health insurance company, intended to Wikileak financial and (possibly damaging) patient claims data. For an insurer with a poor track record, this could cause serious problems.