imagePatients in the U.S. are transforming into health care consumers, and in 2015 there are 3 underlying forces shaping that new consumer.

imageThis week kicks off the annual BIO conference in Philadelphia, and today Klick Health, the digital communications firm, convenes a group of thought leaders in healthcare to brainstorm markets, financing, and the state of pharmaceutical and life science innovation. An underlying theme throughout this meet-up is patient’s role in health/care.

Patients are people, consumers, caregivers, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends, neighbors, community members, taxpayers, all. We’re old, we’re young, we’re mobile and not-so-much, we’re amputees, we’re migraneurs, we’re cancer survivors and we’re feeling damn good much of the time, too.

All of us as patients are impacted by 3 key market forces in 2015.

1. Patients are now major payors. Life science companies have long had staff dealing with so-called “managed markets:” big payors like the VA, Medicare and Medicaid, national health plans and self-insured employers. But there’s a new payor in town, thanks to high-deductible health plans and account-based medical savings plans such as HSAs: that, is the patient him/herself. And that makes the patient a health/care consumer.

imageThe key data point here comes from Strategy&’s survey of consumers in late 2014, finding that about the same proportion of U.S. adults trust large retail and digitally-enabled companies to help them manage their health as they do health care providers. Underneath that statistic (roughly 40% of U.S. adults across the 3 types of organizations) is consumers’ perception that retail and digital companies are more transparent and demontrate clear value.

2. The patient-person has evolved into homo informaticus – a multi-channel, information-seeking species. Increasingly, that communication is via mobile platforms, and especially powerful as smarphones have become, as Dr. John Mattison CMIO of Kaiser Permanente has called them, “the new wellness channel.” Dr. Eric Topol, editor of Medscape and of the Scripps Medical Center, waxed lyrically about the advent of smartphones in digital health in his seminal book, The Patient Will See You Now.

3. 2014 was a watershed year for bio-pharmaceuticals. On the good-news front for health care cost growth in the U.S., the growth rate moderated to about 6.5% over 2013. But for prescription drugs, the growth rate was around 10%, and for specialty drugs, closer to 25%. Contrast this to a negative CPI and flat wage growth for most Americans. 2014 was the year I could walk into my local Wegmans grocery store and ask for free statins, free diabaetes meds, and free antibiotics, then fill a prescription for a $1,000 pill to combat Hepatitis C.

Weaving these 3 points together…

The patient is the payor. The patient’s perception of “value” is different than the value adjective used in the concept of “value-based payment.” For patients, it’s about both value — saving money, bolstering financial wellness — and values — patronizing organizations that jibe with one’s personal sense of right, a trend that’s resonated since the advent of the Great Recession of 2008 and represented by the likes of Tom’s Shoes and Warby-Parker.

At the same time, that patient-consumer is using mutliple communications channels every day manage life and health.

imageThose technologies and social networks are now the collaborative platforms for co-creating health. That is the promise for bio/life science companies that Klick Health is birthing today at the Ideas Exchange one block from Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the cradle of liberty.

What an appropriate metaphor for the patient seekinug empowerment and self-health.