Consumers unwilling to change behavior to lower healthcare costs: poll

January 24, 2014

A new survey reveals that American healthcare consumers are reluctant to make changes that would bring about the lower healthcare costs they say they want.

Your patients may complain about the rising cost of their healthcare, but few of them appear willing to do much about it, according to a new survey.

The survey, by the Accenture consulting group, finds that an overwhelming majority-72%-of retail consumers say affordability is their most important consideration when it comes to healthcare. That compares with 16% who cite the quality of care, and 9% who cite access.

When it comes to altering their own behavior to reduce healthcare costs, however, the picture looks very different: Only 23% of those surveyed say they would be willing to change the primary care physician they see for regular office visits, 29% would change the hospital they use for inpatient care, 43% would get routine care from a nurse practitioner rather than a physician, and 41% would change brand prescriptions for treating the same condition. And while 60% say that low out-of-pocket costs for doctor visits is an important consideration, only 19% think it’s important to know the cost of care in advance.

The survey defines a retail consumer as someone who is under age 65 and is either uninsured, has individual coverage, or coverage through an employer with fewer than 100 employees.

The findings are not surprising, given that the healthcare industry has long discouraged a sense of engagement among consumers, says Wayne Guerra, MD, MBA, a former emergency department physician and co-founder and chief medical officer of iTriage, an app that helps consumers identify medical problems and seek treatment for them.

 “I think we’re asking questions of people who’ve never really experienced true consumer choice in healthcare,” Guerra says. “It’s what they’re used to and what we’ve created by not having those choices.”

Other findings from the survey:

  • Among retail consumers who are eligible for subsidies to buy insurance, 81% say they want help in improving their health and wellness, but only 60% of subsidy-eligible consumers say getting regular checkups is a priority, and 26% say they don’t do anything about their health until they actually become sick.

  • When it comes to what retail health customers want from a health insurance provider, 72% say the most important consideration is having a live person available to answer questions and resolve issues, 65% say it is support and guidance following a major diagnosis or treatment, and 63%say it is help finding doctors, getting appointments, and negotiating costs.

The survey, “Reconciling the Great Healthcare Consumer Paradox: Are Consumers Willing to Change to Get What They Want?” can be viewed at www.accenture.com/sitecollectiondocuments/Accenture-Reconciling-the-Great-Healthcare-Consumer-Paradox.pdf