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6 Things Customers Want Health Plans to Know

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media, January 11, 2012

Consumers put off care. In the short term this is sweet for health insurers, who have seen their bottom lines explode as members limit visits to physicians and hospitals. At issue are higher deductibles and co-payments, which often cramp utilization. Some 46% of respondents to the PwC survey said they deferred care—some as many as five times—in the past year because of cost. Studies have shown that deferred care often includes cutting back on prescriptions and preventive services such as vaccinations, mammograms, and cancer screening. That could mean long-term trouble for insurers in the form of increased medical bills and declining revenue.

Consumers think integrated healthcare is a good idea. Some 72% prefer an integrated healthcare model, with 38% linking that model to reduced healthcare costs. Meanwhile, 36% think the quality of care will increase if their health insurer and hospital or physician merge. Health insurers committed more than $2 billion in the last year to acquire or align with physician groups, clinics, and hospitals, according to PwC. That's probably just the tip of the iceberg. Gitlin says it's just a matter of time before integration becomes more of a differentiating factor for consumers in the selection of providers.

Consumers are willing to share their medical data. Sixty percent of survey respondents are willing to share data among healthcare organizations to improve their care coordination and 54% said they are okay with sharing data to support real-time decision-making for their care. That's good news for the Department of Health and Human Services, which has been promoting information exchange as part of healthcare reform. Farzad Mostashari, MD, the national coordinator for health information technology at HHS, likes to mention a study that looked at the delivery of basic care for diabetics, such as getting their eyes and blood sugars checked. Only 7% of people with paper records had that basic standard of care, compared to 51% with electronic records.

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