When it comes to healthcare consumer wants and needs, one new survey has found out that not receiving care is what’s most important. Huh? Well, it’s because of worries over costs. Meanwhile, the Millennials are looking for meaningful connections with their physicians and more benefits from employers even as another survey reports Americans questioning the value of healthcare. We review and contrast a series of recent studies and reports on the changing needs of patients and their current perceptions of healthcare.
Boomers and Gen Xers are skipping healthcare due To cost – Forbes carried a recent article detailing how researchers at West Health Institute and NORCp at the University of Chicago (a nonpartisan research institution) interviewed 1,302 adults. In findings released at the American Society on Aging’s 2018 Aging in America conference in San Francisco, they reported among other things that “Between a third and a half of people age 45 to 59 and a quarter of those 60+ went without needed health care in the last year due to its cost.” This generally explains the recent Gallop poll, reported in Healthcare Finance, that listed healthcare at the top of 15 contemporary issues including immigration, the economy, and the environment.
Fear of costs is the motivator for healthcare consumers. We reviewed the official release about the West Health survey which reports that many people are skipping necessary medical care because of cost more Americans fear medical bills than they do serious illness. “The high cost of healthcare has become a public health crisis that cuts across all ages as more Americans are delaying or going without recommended medical tests and treatments,” said Zia Agha, MD, chief medical officer at the West Health Institute, a nonprofit applied medical research organization based in San Diego, CA. “According to this survey, most Americans do not feel they are getting a good value for their healthcare dollars, and the rising cost of healthcare is clearly having a direct consequence on American’s health-and financial well-being.” Key findings include:
- More than half of survey respondents report serious financial consequences due to the costs of healthcare.
- Thirty-six percent say they have had to use up all or most of their savings, 32 percent report borrowing money or increasing credit card debt
- 41 percent say they decreased contributions to a savings plan because of healthcare expenses
- Over half of respondents said they received a medical bill for something they thought was covered by their health insurance, and a similar proportion reported receiving a medical bill that was higher than they expected.
- More than a quarter of respondents reported having a medical bill turned over to a collection agency within the past year
All this has the marketplace wondering what workers want for healthcare benefits and in particular the millennial generation. Another article in Forbes quotes a two time CEO from that generation listing his own top benefits for employees including:
- Mental Health Benefits
- Healthcare Savings Benefits
- Family Benefits
Millenials may want more benefits, but so far, a huge majority just aren’t finding value in healthcare. As a related Healthcare Finance article notes, “while $3.3 trillion was spent on healthcare in the U.S. in 2016, the [West Health Institute] poll found three-quarters of Americans don’t think they get good value.”
Maybe it’s time to go virtual for healthcare consumers. Modern Healthcare, reporting on another recent poll, finds “More than half of the nearly 2,500 consumers surveyed are comfortable contacting their physician digitally and already use available technology, according to a new survey from the consultancy Ernst & Young. The main motivators are that virtual data-sharing will reduce wait times and lower costs.” Further, “Thirty-six percent of consumers are interested in at-home diagnostic testing, 33% are open to using a smartphone to share data and 21% would do video consultations.”
Meanwhile, the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), has also done a study and produced a report on “patient sentiment” that takes 7 million physician reviews into account. This report lists trust, personal connection and communication as key factors for patients in choosing and remaining with a Doctor. This study focused mostly on human relationships but did uncover the desire for more online appointment setting.
Back to basics… back to bedside manner? The MGMA study (done in conjunction with HealthGrades.com, a site that connects patients and doctors) sums up their findings for findings with advice for health systems like this: “In the same way health systems use outcomes data to improve clinical quality, they can use this analysis of patient sentiment to understand what consumers are looking for when it comes to a positive patient-physician relationship. Consumers think of their care providers in terms of the doctor or practice where they receive care, not the health system they are affiliated with. The health system represents the sum of its physicians. There is an opportunity for health systems to support their physicians by providing the experience patients seek.”
Of course, bedside manner and personal relationships cannot help much with the cost/value perceptions by healthcare consumers. There’s an entire legislative and technological level involved in the value solution for the revenue cycle. We’ll keep watch and tell you about reports, analysis, and healthcare trends as we go.