Claire Celeste Carnes at HIMSS: Consumerism is a trend that will continue

Claire Celeste Carnes, partner, Providence Ventures, presented at the Start Up Bootcamp, at the mHealth Summit on Nov. 9, during the HIMSS Connected Health Conference in Washington, DC.

One of the big complaints of healthcare is that it’s hard to shop. I can use an app to find reservations for dinner tonight; I can order groceries to be delivered to my house; I can shop online and use reviews from people like me to assess an outfit for brunch with my aunt. And I know how much the groceries and dress will cost before I place my final order.

Since Americans have higher cost-sharing for their healthcare, they are becoming shoppers. Discerning shoppers. And they are looking for the information to make sound decisions. With that background, we expect to see consumerism in healthcare continue to accelerate, with companies solving many of the pain points for consumers.

Take online reviews.

Consumers check reviews before they buy a sweater or piece of furniture; they look at restaurant reviews before deciding where to eat; they check how many stars an app has before they consider downloading it. They share their views on many websites, including on social media and review sites as well.

One of our first investments was in Binary Fountain, a company that helps health systems and medical groups monitor social media conversations. We use their NLP technology to assess and score physician ratings, and we make that available on our websites to help consumers select a doctor. This not only helps consumers, but by making information more transparent, we can improve our own operations. The reviews help to move our web pages to the top of search results, and the information helps consumers select our providers for their care.

At the 2015 mHealth Summit on Monday’s Startup Boot Camp session, we’ll talk through areas that we focus on when evaluating companies, such as driving returns and converting pilots into paying customers. At Providence, we have the ability to de-risk our investments by piloting the solutions; we help our portfolio companies with the challenges of selling into health systems.

Often, the companies I see can articulate the benefits to consumers, but healthcare is a complex business model; the person making the decision is not the person paying the bills. Ensuring that a company articulates how it adds value to the health system or payer, including financial value, is critical, and sometimes, missed.

Consumerism includes transparency in quality and price. That means finding simple ecommerce solutions to shopping for and purchasing healthcare. It means finding more convenience and options, such as on-demand, telehealth, and home visits. We expect to see more compelling solutions in this area that generate benefits to both consumers and health systems.