Though customer value co-creation is not a new concept, tracing back to the 1970s when it was first discussed in the business literature (Janamian et al., 2016), it might be surprising (and even shocking) to hear that it found its way into health care only recently. With more options and more information available online, patients took on an increasingly active role in their health and wellness (Elg et al., 2012). This changed the traditional view of many health care systems where consumers were seen as having a passive, receiving role (Nambisan & Nambisan, 2009).
Consequently, today an increased focus is put on partnerships between the different participants within health systems, such as researchers, health care professionals, health care organizations and the consumer community. Especially online health communities have experienced growing popularity in recent years, both among patients and health care organizations. The advantage of these communities is that they often show strong identity-based as well as bond-based attachment between members resulting in very active groups that health care organizations try to tap into.
What are the benefits?
- improved health outcomes
- increased trust in the health care system
- reduced healthcare costs
For health care organizations
- new innovative ideas
- reduced cost and time to market
- more positive perception
For the health system
- increased efficiencies in health services
- identification of improvement opportunities
- reduced costs for the health system
- increased patient satisfaction
How does it work in practice?
Nambisan and Nambisan (2009) developed a framework of consumer value co-creation in health care, differentiating between four different models. These models are resembled in the following matrix and are differentiated via two dimensions, the Nature of Leadership which can either be the consumer or the health care organization versus the Nature of Knowledge activity, where they differentiate between knowledge creation and knowledge sharing.
Based on the framework we can classify existing practices based on their related consumer value co-creation model. A Partnership Model is characterized according to Nambisan and Nambisan (2009) by an online health community that participates in activities that are led by health care organizations to create new knowledge. An example are for instance online communities where organizations reach out to patients for clinical trials, for instance to understand the side effects of drugs. A global online health community that is especially active in this area is HealthUnlocked. The platform also enables peer support and allows users to see and contribute in over 700 health communities about specific health conditions. These communities are often run in partnership with established healthcare organizations (HealthUnlocked, 2019).
In contrast to the previous model, Open-Source Models are characterized by consumer community led activities, sometimes also referred to as consumer centers of research (Nambisan & Nambisan, 2009). This kind of model might be especially valuable for people with rare disease that can then form communities with peers and experts and focus on the research of specific diseases. As the „crowd“ in these communities does not consist of experts, the value in insights might be limited though. Nevertheless, the social network project Panoply could be considered a successful model that started off as a relatively small open-source project which eventually resulted in a successful app that promotes well-being to combat depression (Rucker, 2017).
Support Group Models are consumer community led forums for sharing consumers’ knowledge about a disease or treatment (Nambisan & Nambisan, 2009). Phoenix Helix is such a platform, that provides help and advice for people that suffer from auto-immune diseases (Phoenix Helix, 2019). Health care organizations could provide additional value in these communities for instance by offering complementary services or access to databases.
Finally, Diffusion Models are characterized by knowledge sharing activities initiated and led by health care organizations. These models have the potential advantage that they facilitate the diffusion of knowledge about an organizations existing or new product. Multinational pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline used this model when it launched a new weight loss drug and invited 400 overweight men and women to share their experience in an online community (Nambisan & Nambisan, 2009). It should be noted however that diffusion could be both positive as well as negative.
While the approaches discussed above can offer real value for patients, health care organizations and health system, there are some risks. In most of the above cases patient data is self reported and not always directly linked to medical records or clinical information which may result in invalid and biased data (Bhomwmick & Hribar, 2016). Moreover, some individuals in the community might be motivated by extrinsic rewards like glory or money and thus knowingly give wrong information to stick out. Furthermore, data published on online communities might be confidential and could expose very sensitive information (Bhowmick & Hribar, 2016).
It is evident that online health communities can serve as valuable resources for patients as well as health care providers for value based co-creation in health care. Online health communities can positively effect efficiency, feasibility and speed of health research while engaging many customers (Bhomwick & Hribar, 2016). While focusing mainly on consumer value co-creation between the consumer and a single health care organization in this blogpost, it should be noted that health care organizations are increasingly putting efforts on working together on common ecosystem to drive digitalization and utility for the consumers, such as the platform established by Siemens Healthineers in 2017 (Siemens Healthineers, 2017).
Bhowmick, A. & Hribar, C. (2016). Online Health Communities: A New Frontier in Health Research. Medium. Retrieved from https://medium.com/@abhowmick1/online-health-communities-a-new-frontier-in-health-research-71fb73edbea2.
Elg, M., Engström, J., Witell, L. & Poksinska, B. (2012). Co-creation and learning in health-care service development. Journal of Service Management, 23(3), pp.328-343.
HealthUnlocked. (2019). HealthUnlocked About Us. Retrieved from https://healthunlocked.com/about.
Janamian, T., Crossland, L. & Wells, L. (2016). On the road to value co-creation in health care: the role of consumers in defining the destination, planning the journey and sharing the drive. MJA, 204(7).
Nambisan, P. & Nambisan, S. (2009). Models of consumer value concretion in health care. Health Care Management Review, 34(4), pp.344-354.
Phoenix Helix (2019). Phoenix Helix. Retrieved from https://www.phoenixhelix.com
Rucker, M. (2017). 5 Great Online Communities for Patients With Medical Conditions. Verywell Health. Retrieved from https://www.verywellhealth.com/great-online-communities-for-medical-patients-1739169.
Siemens Healthineers (2017). Siemens Healthineers establishes global Digital Ecosystem to drive digitalization of healthcare. Retrieved from https://www.siemens.com/press/en/pressrelease/?press=/en/pressrelease/2017/healthineers/pr2017020180hcen.htm&content%5B%5D=HC.