From the National Business Coalition on Health: Patients are morphing
into health care consumers with growing use of technology for medical shopping
and health engagement, according to a survey conducted by Altarum, the health services research
Virtually all (99%) of U.S. health citizens want to play a role in medical
decisions about their care. However, consumers vary in just how much of that
responsibility they want to assume:
- 35% want to make the final decision with some input from doctors and other
- 29% want to be completely in charge of their decisions
- 28% want to make a joint decision with equal input from their doctor
- 7% want their doctor to make the decisions, providing some input themselves
Just 1% want the doctor to be completely in charge of treatment decisions.
The cost of care is an issue consumers are keen to know more of in health care.
Altarum asked consumers about two health behaviors when receiving advice or
services from a health provider — looking for information about doctor quality
ratings before choosing where to go, and asking before a visit how much the
cost would be. Overall, fewer than half of consumers asked about prices (42%)
or investigated quality before receiving the health service (39%).
Importantly, engaging in these two behaviors was less likely among folks who
were in poor/fair health than those in excellent health, with 29% looking for
quality information on providers and 34% asking about cost — compared with 62%
of people in excellent health asking about quality and 60% asking about cost.
The survey found, consistent with other polls, that most consumers trust and
like their doctor. Furthermore, 76% of consumers also believe that their doctor
would “never” recommend a test or procedure unless it was necessary.cNOTE: Even physician-sponsored specialty societies recognize that many of the routine tests and procedures patients receive are not needed. See the presentation by John Santa, MD, Director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center at MBGH's September 6, 2012 Annual Conference and get a list of the procedures identified by 9 specialty societies all part of the Choosing Wisely campaign.
What’s concerning in Altarum’s findings is that the poorer a consumer perceives
his or her health to be, the less empowered that individual feels. While 75% of
those in excellent health say they’re confident they can reduce costs of care
by shopping for better prices, only 30% of those in poor/fair health are
confident in doing so. Thus, 70% of those in poor/fair health are uncertain/not
at all confident that they’ll be competent health shoppers, able to reduce
their health costs. Yet it’s those in poorer health who tend to be higher cost
While several entrepreneurial companies are positioning themselves to play
starring roles in shedding light on prices and quality in health care — such as
Castlight Health, Change:Healthcare (see Change Healthcare's presentation from MBGH's September 6, 2012 Annual Conference), Clear Health Costs — it is unclear whether
their business plans are positioning them to serve the sicker, less health
literate population. This is a key issue for employers to target.