Survey shows patients increasingly use technology while shopping around for healthcare

October 7, 2019
Keith A. Reynolds
Keith A. Reynolds

American patients turning to technology to choose physician, seeking more tech options in the doctor’s office, and more transparency.

Patients are turning to technology in greater numbers to comparison shop their healthcare, according to a new patient survey from insurance giant UnitedHealth Group.

The survey showed 37 percent of respondents used the internet or mobile applications to shop around for healthcare in the past year. Of those, 39 percent used that information to change either their healthcare facility or physician.

This shows a stark increase from another UnitedHealth Group survey from 2012 which showed only 14 percent of respondents having used technology in these decisions.

Of those comparison shoppers, 50 percent were millennials and 80 percent told surveyors using technology was very or somewhat helpful in their choice.

“Technology continues to reshape nearly every aspect of life, including how people research and access healthcare,” Rebecca Madsen, chief consumer officer of UnitedHealthcare, says in a news release distributed with the survey results. “This survey suggests Americans are increasingly embracing technology as an important resource to improve their health and more effectively navigate the health system, while highlighting the need for further investment in new resources to help enhance the care experience and provide more effective, evidence-based clinical interventions.”

Of those respondents who use a voice-activated assistant, 61 percent expressed interest in using it to evaluate healthcare options.

Patients also seem to have a thirst for more technology inside the physician’s office, as 45 percent of the respondents said they would be interested in their doctors using artificial intelligence (AI) to help with treatment decisions, while 28 percent said they weren’t interested in AI.

Of the patients who said they were interested in their doctors using AI, 46 percent said their decision was based in a belief that it may lead to a more accurate diagnosis while 31 percent said it may cut down on human error on the part of the physician.

Some skepticism remains, though: 47 percent of patients who were uninterested in their doctor using AI prefer the expertise of a trained physician and 24 percent expressed a lack of trust in the technology.

Despite that data, 46 percent of respondents said that doctors and nurses are still patients’ chief source of information about specific health symptoms with 20 percent turning to the internet for those questions.

The survey also shows a desire for more transparency from doctors, with 64 percent of respondents saying they never know the price of medications prescribed when they leave the physician’s office and only 11 percent saying they always know the price.

The telephone survey was conducted from Aug. 8-12 and used a sample of 1,008 adults, with a supplemental interviewing of 1,002 between Aug. 22-28.