05/01/2012 01:15 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Is it Time for Healthcare to Engage Patients as Consumers?

What if your physician knew you as well as a personal shopper? Or how about if your health insurance provider could suggest the most advantageous plan the way your cell phone carrier recommends the latest family plan?

While the tongue depressor hasn't changed in years, new influences such as social media, the mobile revolution and higher expectations from consumers are forcing healthcare organizations to rethink the way they deal with patients.

We are entering the age of the empowered health consumer. Consider that 50 million consumers will enter the individual and exchange insurance market by 2017. Additionally, a 40 percent decline in group health care coverage is expected by 2017. Meanwhile, annual private healthcare spending will increase by $430 billion by 2015.

Consumers now have unprecedented access to information about medicine and health care. As a result they're becoming more demanding and better informed about the care they receive. Combine this new reality with the transition going on in healthcare and the industry will certainly face looking at patients and their health differently. Many organizations are even rethinking their business models.

This week during the World Health Care Congress in Washington, D.C., we're discussing this new reality and the need for healthcare to be more consumer focused. Together we'll explore what it will take to enable healthcare providers and insurance companies to connect and collaborate with patients better.

Taking a page from the retail industry playbook, can these types of organizations apply the retail mentality to better understand and influence consumer behavior through vast amounts of data? In all of this, analytics is key. Understanding the individual and providing a more personalized view of the patient will help organizations compete in a new era of healthcare transformation. This kind of insight can be used to keep patients healthier.

We are barreling through unprecedented change in the healthcare industry. Everything is changing with new competitors, new opportunities and new challenges. One thing is clear, better information just might enable better care.