« Grading the Emergency Care System | Main | Can the Consumer Choose Wisely in 2014? »

The Locked-Up Potential of Healthcare Consumers

By Clive Riddle, January 10, 2014

It’s become a common theme in healthcare surveys – the consumer has all this potential in our era of health reform, and much is riding on the consumer in the healthcare reform equation, but to-date that potential remains largely locked up.

Altarum Institute’s Center for Consumer Choice in Health Care  has just released findings from their latest semi-annual Altarum Institute Survey of Consumer Health Care Opinions.  Let’s listen to what what Wendy Lynch, Director of Altarum’s Center author of their study has to say about that: “It’s a positive sign that people are open to asking their doctors about costs and involving themselves in their health care decisions. But overall, the study shows that people still have their head in the sand when it comes to what they think they can control. They have more power than they realize just by asking questions; now they just need to use it. Consumers still believe that problems in health care are the fault of insurance companies or government and underestimate what they can do themselves.”

Well said, Wendy Lynch.

Here’s some of Altarum’s findings from their eighteen-page report on the study:

“One-third would like to make a shared decision with their doctor, and 43% want to make the final decision with some professional input. Fewer than 10% of consumers prefer the doctor to have the final say in decision making… There appears to be a recent decline in the percent of consumers who want to be completely in charge of their decisions, from more than 30% in fall 2011 to 16% in fall 2013.”

“35% [of  consumers] sometimes forget to take their medicine, and 28% did not take their medication within the past 2 weeks. When examining rates by age, younger respondents were more likely to forget or skip medications.” [46% of ages 25-34 sometimes forget, and 35% of this group skipped in past two weeks]

“63% of consumers reported that a doctor has ever invited them to choose among different medications or treatments. A larger share (83%) reported that they have received a doctor’s recommendation for a specific course of action.”

“Four out of five consumers (79%) use input from friends and relatives to guide them in their health care provider choices. More consumers tapped into online sources compared to prior years, nearly one-third (32%) reported that they use online ratings of a doctor’s bedside manner or waiting time, and 27% use online quality ratings. Only 16% indicated that they look at cost information to assist them in selecting a doctor, and use of advertisements remains low at 7%.”

“The majority of consumers indicated that they would be comfortable approaching their doctor about the cost of health care services. Four out of five are either somewhat or very comfortable asking about price. Only 15% and 4% are somewhat and very uncomfortable, respectively. Despite these high comfort levels, fewer than half (46%) of all respondents reported that they have ever asked how much a visit would cost before going to the doctor.”

“Only 6% felt very confident and 29% were somewhat confident that they could take steps to find less expensive care. Nearly half (47%) were uncertain and 18% were not at all confident that they could reduce costs. They appeared to be slightly more convinced that they could shop for better doctors, if not better prices. Just a little more than half (52%) felt that they could compare information to select a more qualified health care provider, while 39% were uncertain and 9% were not at all confident.”

“20% of individuals who strongly agreed with the statement “There is nothing I can do to affect the cost of health care” also reported that they are overweight, they use tobacco, or they do not exercise. Only 13% of patients who reported none of those unhealthy behaviors agreed with the same statement.”

“Three out of five (44%) reported that they sometimes choose to go without health care due to financial concerns. Additionally, 27% respondents reported that the main reason why they are currently employed is to receive health insurance benefits. In general, cost seemed to be more prohibitive for younger respondents.”

“Only 5% of consumers are certain that they will have the recommended savings needed to cover health expenses after they retire. On the other hand, more than 80% are either unsure or unlikely to have enough money set aside for health care post-retirement.”


Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>