The Paradox of Choice

May 21, 2021 Matt Cohlmia

It’s a well-studied phenomenon that when you give people more choices, what they experience is not freedom, empowerment, and agency. What you get is paralysis, confusion, and burden. Over the past few decades, healthcare has had a growing paradox of choice problem—offering patients an ever-increasing number of care options—but not providing the information, guidance, and access to make those options navigable.

In an effort to best meet patient needs, the industry has proliferated new types of healthcare visit options: from primary care and specialty care through urgent care, retail clinics, virtual care, and more. Patients also have more organizations to choose from when seeking care than ever before. For a simple virtual visit, patients might choose between multiple local health systems, their employer’s contracted concierge primary care service, a national telehealth company, or their health plan’s offering. While options have increased, the availability of information needed to make a good choice has not kept pace with the proliferation of alternatives. For each option, patients may want to weigh location, hours, whether the provider speaks their preferred language, whether the care/provider is in network, what their out-of-pocket costs might be, and, for more personal care, the provider’s practice philosophy and particular areas of focus. 

This complexity has again multiplied over the past year, as COVID-19 drove the proliferation and adoption of yet another care approach: virtual care modalities. Patients are choosing not just between primary care, urgent care, and retail care, but also virtual primary care, virtual urgent care, and virtual retail care. The process of deciding where and how to get care has become a daunting one.

As the future of healthcare becomes digitized, health systems face both a challenge and an opportunity. New competitors and ever-proliferating modalities of care, each competing for patient attention, have the potential to create a fragmented, confusing, and impersonal healthcare experience for patients. Because of these digitally-enabled competitors, the threat of disruption to health systems has never been greater. At the same time, health systems possess the breadth of care, the access to data, and the patient trust to become their community’s preferred partner in care. To position themselves for success, they must leverage these resources to create navigable and personalized experiences for their patients, and for the first time ever, those are within reach.

In my latest Digital Perspective Report called The Paradox of Choice, I deep dive into this topic. You can download the report from the Providence Digital Innovation Group Resource Center here

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