Demand for health services is rising steadily. At current growth rates, we estimate that most Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries will spend more than 20 percent of GDP on health care by 2050. Two important contributors to this growth—the increasing prevalence of largely preventable chronic conditions and the suboptimal use of health care resources—are strongly influenced by the behavioral choices consumers make. For example, obesity, which is largely preventable, significantly raises the risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers. And because most health systems have not encouraged patients to take appropriate control of their care, consumers often seek the wrong type of treatment for many conditions. Misuse of the health care system only intensifies the cost burden imposed by the increased prevalence of chronic illness.

As the principal bearers of health risks and costs, payors—both governmental agencies and private insurers—have an interest in helping consumers adopt healthier lifestyles and in promoting more value-conscious health care consumption. By encouraging their members to make better choices, payors can prevent or control many chronic diseases, ensure that health care resources are used more wisely, and—in many cases—reduce costs. Recognizing this, a growing number of payors have made consumer engagement a priority, employing strategies with different degrees of effectiveness.

Engaging consumers requires a fundamental mind-set shift for payors: they must think of their members as partners in health management. Thus, payors need to build new or enhanced capabilities in such areas as consumer insights, customer relationship management, behavioral economics, and social marketing. They may also need to cooperate with other stakeholders—including providers, local authorities, pharmaceutical companies, and not-for-profit organizations—if they want to drive changes in consumer behavior.