Consumerism and the Drive Toward Ubiquitous Health

A North Highland Worldwide Consulting and Supplemental Health Care Perspective

Technology, consumerism, changing payment models and value-based outcomes are forcing healthcare systems and providers to do more with less. An aging population and changing legislation demands quality over quantity and greater access to care.


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Executive Summary

Healthcare organizations across the country are consistently faced with decisions on how best to respond. From political trends affecting legislation that may impact everything from ratios to reimbursements to trends of how an aging population can receive both the quantity as well as the quality of care they deserve. Responding to how best manage the workforce of today as well as
plan for tomorrow’s workforce often gets overshadowed when faced with all the various decisions that must be made on a daily basis. This is especially true when so many organizations are simply trying to find enough quality clinicians to help maintain current care levels. As workforce strategies continue to take on a greater role in preparing for the future, organizations like Supplemental Health Care that can provide quality clinical staff on a contingent basis are becoming key strategic partners.

Keeping up with how best to prioritize trends can become a daunting process. However, not all trends are simply increasing the stakes of providing quality care – some are pointing to potential opportunities in the exploration for how to serve more patients with quality care. Taking advantage of wearable technology is one such area where advancements are changing the conversation from care being an afterthought to one where healthcare is part of our everyday lives. As millions of Americans are utilizing wearable technology to monitor their activity levels, it is critical that healthcare organizations continue to innovate with this technology, leverage the data collection potential and increase the value that remote monitoring can provide. Including identifying potential health issues earlier, monitoring status with fewer office visits, and most importantly allowing healthcare to be made available to all people through a cheaper model of care.

  • More than 10,000 individuals are turning 65 each day
  • Healthcare providers are being forced to “do more with less” while still expanding access to quality care Macro trends, like consumerism, are driving increased demand for virtual health solutions
  • Healthcare lags other industries in digital innovation and must learn the lessons from others’ experiences
  • Providers must design and implement virtual health solutions that meet the needs of the consumer, blending convenience at the lowest cost while maintaining the highest quality
  • The “customer experience” must be clearly defined to ensure acceptance, utilization, and efficacy of new innovations

The future of healthcare is ubiquitous healthcare, meaning that all people should have access to care on demand from anywhere at any time. Today’s telemedicine and the evolving virtual health platforms are just stepping stones to the ultimate destination of ubiquitous healthcare. Healthcare systems are partnering with experts, like North Highland, to utilize their expertise in managing the customer experience, developing healthcare strategies, and IT design and integration.

Macro Trends Driving Change


Out of pocket costs for healthcare and medication have continued to rise driving a shift toward consumerism. Individuals view themselves not as patients but as consumers of a product or service. More individuals are actively managing their care and “shopping” for care that fits their needs and their budget.

Big Data

Fast expanding capabilities to access, integrate, and analyze traditional and non-traditional data will improve evidence-based clinical practice and self-care. Collaboration and communication will improve, enhancing consumer insights and reducing waste.

Cost Pressures

U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is expected to grow by 4.4% between now and 2025, while CMS is projecting national health spending to grow by 5.6%.

Aging Population

By the year 2040, nearly one-quarter of our population will be 65 and over. The strain on the system is that currently, 60% of seniors are managing 2 or more chronic diseases, 4% have functional limitations, and over 5 million are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Changing Reimbursement Models

Payments are becoming value-based and bundled. The focus is on patient outcomes, and currently, 50% of providers are involved in an outcome driven reimbursement on some level.

What Does Consumerism Look Like?

Some patients are taking it upon themselves to be more educated, empowered, and financially responsible for their healthcare. For others who aren’t prepared or motivated for that, the onus is on healthcare organizations to simplify the model and incentivize consumers to take on more responsibility. The successful virtual health ecosystem will incorporate consumer input to ensure adoption and the delivery of quality, value-based care.

40% of insured individuals under age 65 enrolled in high-deductible health plans. (1)
32% of consumers are using websites and mobile apps to comparison shop for care. (2)
Within 5 years, 38M individuals globally will be remotely monitored. (3)

Innovations Required for "Ubiquicare"

Workforce Planning

In addition to the trends that were referenced as the drivers of change in the healthcare industry, the need for variable workforces to meet changing demands is building rapidly. Organizations in the staffing space, like Supplemental Health Care, are seeing more of a shift toward travel nursing and travel allied. Further demands for local clinicians working per diem or
taking longer term contracts are supporting the changing demographics and work environments in facilities. Employers are partnering with staffing experts to find ways to improve workforce productivity, lower their recruiting and staffing costs, and increase their own employee retention.

Care Alignment

The greatest opportunity for healthcare systems today is the alignment of care to meet the needs of the consumer-driven model. This means finding lower cost methods for delivery that meet the higher quality standards and value-based outcomes. For example, if 90% of seniors age 65 and older want to stay at home as long as possible, how can we design care for them as they age in place?

Digital Solutions

Other industries have completely transformed their business models through the utilization of digital solutions and technology.
Until recently, healthcare has lagged behind. Since 2015, there have been more than 100,000 healthcare apps developed for mobile devices. Over 1,500 for managing diabetes alone. The prevalence and acceptance of mobile devices for other uses have made the idea of Telehealth and Virtual Health more acceptable to millions of individuals. According to a 2017 Consumer Survey by American Well, 65% of adults are willing to have virtual visits with their primary care physician and 78% would use virtual visits for prescription refills. Almost 80% responded that they are willing to coordinate elder care through telehealth services. (4)

What are the Implications?

Patients are financially invested in their own healthcare in greater numbers than ever before. They will continue seeking care that is delivered in convenient settings at times that are determined by them, not others. This is already creating a new staffing mix of providers with different skill sets.

Home care is creating additional need for nurses, advanced nurse practitioners, and therapists. Communication between retail clinics, urgent care settings, and physicians’ offices will need to improve to meet the changing dynamics.

Virtual care will impact the clinical process, but also provide broader access to care across wider geographies.

Healthcare organizations are often finding themselves reactionary in dealing with the ever- changing landscape of legislation, technology, and staffing challenges. In order to create the bridge that will lead the industry toward the inevitable ubiquicare model, more proactive planning is required. The most progress will be made by organizations that invest in strategic teams to determine how best to increase access to care for their patient populations. The understanding must be that the ubiquicare model is not being built for the patient population that is educating themselves and are already active in the process, it is for the “rest” of the population that is unwilling or without the education or resources to play a greater role in the process.

Ultimately, the benefits of ubiquicare will drive the reactionary conversations that organizations are having now toward creating the infrastructure and the processes that will make ubiquicare the norm.

What Resources are Available?

Resources promoting the ubiquitous care model have been implemented across the nation. Software development for real-time patient information records, the use of cellular devices as a communication medium, and applications for test results are all examples of how ubiquitous health care can be utilized to better equip consumers and clinicians with better tools. The OpenNotes initiative aims to educate and produce programs that support healthcare literacy. OpenNotes allows patients electronic access to visit notes. In response to information, consumers benefit from information transparency, which develops engagement practices that lower costs, and heightens consumer knowledge about medical processes (5). Per the Peterson Center on Healthcare, “Many solutions to improve the quality of healthcare and lower costs are effectively hidden in plain sight at the state level” (5).

State level strides in ubiquitous healthcare

  • Virginia’s integration of primary care and behavioral health services for its uninsured population
  • Michigan’s use of data-driven approaches to reduce infant mortality rates by nearly 13percent from 2012–2014
  • Vermont’s increased access to substance abuse treatment to address rising rates of heroin and prescription drug abuse
  • Mississippi’s expansion of ‘telehealth’ services to serve its large rural population
  • Oregon’s reduction of emergency department visits by 21 percent and related state spending by 20 percent through improved care coordination for Medicaid beneficiaries (5).

Smartphones, web cameras, and diagnostic wearable devices are resources used in telehealth practices to ensure the quality of care for patients with chronic health illnesses from the comfort of their own homes. By building a framework for understanding and health literacy; and equipping the consumer with resources that ensure their engagement—expanding the ubiquitous healthcare model becomes a realistic goal. According to a review conducted by the Journal of Neuroengineering and Rehabilitation, “Remote monitoring systems have the potential to mitigate problematic patient access issues. Nearly 20% of those in the US live in rural areas, but only 9% of physicians work in rural areas,” (6). Utilization of software, wearable technology, and applications will give clinicians more resources to better structure healthcare processes.


Recognizing the need for ubiquitous healthcare is the first step in the process of reform. Innovations in technology present opportunities for efficacy, transparency, and better time management for clinicians and consumers. Educated consumers make better choices about healthcare when they are given adequate information about value and quality. Consumerism promotes this self-education among patients that have a say in how, when and where their healthcare impacts them. However, those without the means to educate themselves become reactionary to health-related issues instead of proactive—resulting in higher costs and lower quality of care. Using resources like wearable diagnostic devices, patient history software and smartphone applications aid Physicians in making better use of their time, resources, and cost structure while making healthcare affordable and accessible to the consumer.

  1. Retrieved from
  2. Retrieved from Forrester Research: 
  3. Retrieved from United Health Care Consumer Sentiment Survey. Retrieved from 
  4. Alday, J. (2016, July 19). New online resource provides best practices, tools for states to improve healthcare quality, lower costs | Peterson Center on healthcare. Retrieved from 
  5. Patel, S., Park, H., Bonato, P., Chan, L., & Rodgers, M. (2012). A review of wearable sensors and systems with application in rehabilitation. Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, 01-17. doi:10.1186/1743-0003-9-21

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North Highland is a global consulting firm with more than 3,000 employees in 60+ offices worldwide. Enabling excellence through a powerful, global integration of industry know-how, design, technology and data.

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Since 1984, Supplemental Health Care has been placing a variety of nursing, therapy and imaging, physician, and physician assistant professionals in facilities throughout the United States. Now with more than 60 offices in major markets, and Travel Nursing, Travel Allied, and Advanced Practice Divisions.


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