Healthcare Lessons From Car Shopping

Someone in the past month used a car analogy for healthcare reform. They were pointing out that you can’t have it all. You’re not going to find the most comfortable car with the best radio that gets great gas mileage and is reasonably priced. Their point was that that is what we’re looking for in healthcare reform.

Then, Ford came out with its press release around working with Welldoc to develop an allergy and diabetes solution that integrates with its SYNC platform in the car. It’s definitely intriguing. I get the allergy part, but I’m not sure I see monitoring diabetes while driving. It will be interesting to see where this goes.

Now, I’ve been out car shopping and learned a few things. First, it’s important to say that I’ve never really car shopped. We’ve bought Ford cars from the same dealer for the past 20 years. After the first time, I simply faxed him a request and told him to call me when it was on the lot for me to drive. Since we buy under the employee plan, there’s no negotiating.

My guy retired so I decided this was a good time for me to shop around (as my car just passed 100,000 miles). It’s been an experience which (as always) I can translate to healthcare.

  1. Overwhelming – At one place, the sales person talked the entire time and just kept showing me options. The technology was too overwhelming and distracting while I drove. To me, this is how I am sure many patients feel when presented with too much data to make a decision.
  2. Focusing on the wrong information – At almost every dealership (5 so far), no one has asked me what matters to me and how I will make a decision. They want to talk to me about their features. One guy actually showed me how clean the repair garage was as if that was a reason to buy a car from them. Again, I am sure many patients want different information then they receive in the process. Ideally, we would understand how they evaluate information and present it in that way.
  3. Not taking you seriously – At another dealership, they passed me off on the 22-year old kid in the corner as a lead. He knew very little about the car that I was interested in. He couldn’t even pronounce the car color. I know sometimes people write off the obese patient as someone that won’t ever change which is something we have to be careful of as part of the care team. It also reinforced the point of trying to match providers and patients which is a difficult and whole other discussion.
  4. Not considering the entire family – At another dealership, the salesperson almost yelled at my son when he touched the electronics and again when he sat on the edge of the seat. I immediately wondered how the car would hold up over time if it was going to break in 5 minutes of him touching it. This reminded me of going to a provider’s office or hospital and the importance of the staff and how they engage the patient and family.
  5. Not giving you time to evaluate options – At another dealership, the guy actually asked what it would take for me to buy the car today. I was immediately put off. Everyone else wanted me to come back and drive it again or encouraged me to do some research. When we present information to consumers, are we giving them enough information and opportunities to weigh their options?

Why do I tell this story? Because I think the consumer experience in healthcare is complex. We need to think about where it breaks down. We need to think about the entire family. We need to think about the physical facilities. We need to think about how information is presented and consumed. This car shopping process has reinforced that for me.

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