In a sector like healthcare where good communication is critical, providers might learn a lesson or two from a completely different industry: retail.

A new report from Ontario’s Patient Ombudsman shows that poor communication is the number-one theme running through more than 2,400 healthcare complaints received from across the province.

The report finds that the complaints are similar among public and private providers, and most often stem from patients receiving either inadequate hospital-discharge information or conflicting details about obtaining a long-term- care spot. These findings align with research from the Canadian Medical Association which finds that only 8% of physicians surveyed make patient records accessible online, and even fewer—6.5%—enable patients to book appointments online.

And these communication shortcomings often worsen other healthcare issues, such as lack of resources—for example, homecare services suddenly becoming unavailable with no advance warning, leaving patients and families to fend for themselves.

While patients once were willing to accept these shortcomings as simply realities of healthcare, now, their experience in other sectors—primarily retail—has raised their expectations.

These expectations are being driven even higher by retail disruptors like Amazon, Apple, Google, and Walmart who are entering the healthcare space and changing service delivery.

For public and private healthcare entities alike, this disruption raises the bar for service and communication. Increasingly, those on the receiving end are no longer patients—they’re consumers. These organizations need to look at them as such, and communicate with them through a retail lens.