Some of the worst national public health crises in history have taken place in the last two decades. With epidemics like SARS, H1N1, Ebola, and the ZIKA virus, a 30-40% increase in obesity, and the devastating insurgence of the opioid epidemic, it is safe to say that health has emerged as the most pressing issue of the 21st century.

And yet, it took the COVID-19 pandemic to truly illuminate the struggles of America’s flawed healthcare system. While every public health crisis strains the industry to a degree, the speed and fatality of COVID-19 arguably devastated it. On top of depleting resources and exhausting and endangering the lives of healthcare workers, this crisis has exposed the industry’s ongoing major issues, like skyrocketing out-of-pocket costs, uneven distribution of care, a broken insurance system, outdated technology, and lack of universal accessibility.

Rebuilding consumer trust will require the healthcare industry to follow in the footsteps of retail, transportation, and hospitality, and embrace the experience economy—a shift that already began to take place in recent years. “Consumers are looking for highly personalized, simple and connected experiences that place them squarely in charge and make them feel empowered,” industry leader Geeta Wilson told Forbes in July 2019. “They want to be heard, understood and accompanied by friends, family and healthcare experts as they traverse their health journey – all while receiving the highest levels of quality care.”

For the foreseeable future, positive healthcare experiences will be measured by the industry’s ability to project the actual and perceived experience of safety. How can healthcare environments be adapted to truly prioritize patient and staff welfare? How can healthcare professionals adjust their day-to-day practice to communicate a greater sense of patient wellbeing? Making visible changes to promote safer environments will begin to rebuild consumer trust in a post-COVID-19 landscape.

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