Do People Want To Become Healthcare “Consumers”?

A group of shoppers conversing

I was talking to a family member recently, and she revealed that she had no idea how to go about doing price shopping and quality comparisons when it came to her medical care.  I asked her if she even cared?  “Of course,” she said.  “I feel totally taken advantage of”.   This surprised me.  Being in the industry, we see pushback from people saying that their employees won’t take the time to become empowered consumers. Are they right? Do people even want to help themselves and deal with skyrocketing costs or do they see it as a no-win situation? 

I decided to check into this and found that McKinsey Global Research conducted a study in July that revealed that consumers do indeed want more participation and control in their healthcare experience and they feel like they aren’t getting it.  High deductibles plans and increased co-payments are making consumers more aware and vigilant.

Of greatest importance:

  • Consumers want affordable care and to know what the cost will be before treatment
  • They want same day or same week appointments
  • They expect everything to be digitized
  • They want to be educated to make informed decisions

AFFORDABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY

According to Kinsey, 70% of patients wanted to price shop, yet only 23% actually did it.  Most people didn’t know how to go about getting prices or they were too embarrassed to ask.  A comparison can be made that when you buy a car, you don’t care what each individual part cost, but rather you want to know the total price of the car as well as the quality and safety ratings.  The same should be true for healthcare.  People are finally understanding the need for information, they just need the tools to do so.  Currently only 1% of people use price transparency tools even though about 40% of their costs can be vastly reduced.

EXPEDIENCY OF CARE

We live in a fast-paced environment and expect everything now.  People no longer want to wait days or weeks to receive care.  They expect same day or same week appointments and are warming up to the idea of telehealth and retail clinics.  One problem, however, is that people are using urgent care facilities and ER’s more.  It needs to be communicated that these options are costing them more money than they realize and are unnecessary in most cases.

DIGITAL SOLUTIONS

Society has grown accustomed to doing everything on their phones and laptops, and the expectation is that technology is supposed to be smooth and easily accessible.  Unfortunately, most of the time healthcare applications are not on par with most other industries. They were designed many years ago and relied on brick and mortar clinics and hospitals, whereas now remote access to providers should be easier.  Upgrading this technology is one way to ensure that adoption will rise more quickly.

ENGAGEMENT

The Kinsey survey stressed that respondents repeatedly said that “they want to be good healthcare consumers who can make informed choices about the care they receive” but don’t really feel like they can do that today.  People need to be taught and given the tools to do things like price and comparison shop, find the best and most appropriate providers, use the right facilities, look for billing errors and overcharges, understand their health plan and stay in their provider network.  These consumers say they are willing to change their behavior as it relates to their care if it reduces their costs. The tools do exist and are there for people to use.  If they are going to succeed in this behavior change, collaboration between employer, employee, and educator will be crucial.

It’s encouraging to realize that even if cost is the strongest motivator, people are willing to take a look at doing things differently. They are beginning to look at less traditional care models, show a willingness to price shop, and are setting expectations of the insurance companies and health providers to offer better digital experiences.  People learn from each other, and the more progressive, practical patients can help to lead the way.  Employers must collaborate with them to engage, educate and offer solutions to help the general population set this new behavior in motion and stop the rising costs and inadequate care.  Healthcare consumerism needs to be more than a buzzword, as these new consumers just may be the force that propels the healthcare industry leaders to sit up and take notice.