A few days ago, I was in a meeting where someone defended a decision to cut Voice of the Consumer research before new product ideation sessions, citing a 1985 Playboy interview with Steve Jobs. To paraphrase, Apple wasn’t going to do market research on the Mac because they were the best judges of what’s great and what’s not. Jobs later added, “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
For many marketers, the failure rate for new product introductions hovers around two-thirds. The inclination to drop research because discovery is not yielding new information is understandable, but killing consumer research because it’s somewhat costly and time consuming, or worse because the team thinks it knows better than its customers, is a perilous strategy.
The word “value” can mean many things in healthcare. We hear about “value-based purchasing” (designed to increase the overall quality of care) or “value” as it relates to patient outcomes relative to cost of care (a payer-centric focus). In both of these examples, consumers are assumed to be beneficiaries of these system-driven efforts.
Yet, a third definition of value is garnering greater attention among health systems; value is consumer-defined. Instead of assuming a passive role, consumers are adopting a proactive approach when making healthcare decisions. Why? The increasing prevalence of high-deductible health plans (HDHP) puts a spotlight on out-of-pocket costs. When consumers spend money, they look for value.
Understanding how consumers assign value to their care is now a critical component of managing a successful health system. The simple question is, “How do consumers define value?” The simplicity of the question belies the nuances involved in learning how consumers assign value. Healthcare concepts like quality, price, advanced technology, reputation, and compassionate care drive perceptions of value. How consumers perceive these concepts is often different from how healthcare experts do.