image“In the New Health Economy, ‘patients’ will be ‘consumers’ first, with both the freedom and responsibility that come with making more decisions and spending their own money.” 

This vision of the near-future is brought to you by the New Health Economy, a report from PwC’s Health Research Institute (HRI).

The chart attests the fact that U.S. “consumers” are already spending nearly $3 trillion (with a capital “T”) on products and services that bolster personal health. This spending includes $94 billion on nutrition, $62 billion on weight loss, $59 billion on sporting goods and apparel, $45 billion on (so-called) organic and natural food, $40 billion on fitness, $30 billion on vitamins/minerals/supplements, among other categories.

This spending equates to $10,000 per person in America.

As people morph into health consumers, they’ll look to expand this kind of spending which could be a threat or opportunity for incumbent health “care” stakeholders. For example, one-third of consumers likes the idea of having chemotherapy at home, as opposed to going to an institutional setting like a hospital or therapy center. One-third of people might choose to get an MRI at a retail clinic or pharmacy versus at a hospital outpatient radiology center.

PwC believes the New Health Economy will be the most important “re-engineering of our health system” since the advent of employer-sponsored health insurance in the 1930s.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:  People are indeed looking to more accessible, convenient, and lower-cost retail formats for health care.

As more dollars flow directly from consumers’ pockets into health and health care, industry stakeholders who go where the proverbial health consumer puck is going will benefit from their patronage. If these new retail experiences delight people and forge brand adoration, then peoples’ social connections will know. While governments and private sector companies are growing footprints in providing report cards on health services and transparency for quality, the vast majority of consumers in the current healthcare marketplace garner and trust the opinions of family and friends for informing health care decisions. Whether a Castlight Health or state healthcare report card will scale and resonate as a shopping destination for consumers remains to be seen.

What is clear is that people in America are already health consumers for wellness and fitness. They’ll have to grow new muscles for picking and choosing health “care” (shopping for pacemakers, selecting a retail clinic for having stitches removed, or purchasing an at-home strep test) in the brave New Health Economy.