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Consumerism Growing Rapidly, Putting More Demands on Providers

News  |  By Gregory A. Freeman  
   December 08, 2017

A recent survey shows that more than half of consumers determine the price before receiving healthcare. Physicians and health systems will need to respond to the movement toward price-based decisions in healthcare.

Consumerism has reached a tipping point, becoming pervasive enough that the healthcare industry must develop better ways to respond to the cost and quality concerns of patients, one analysis concludes.

Consumer-driven healthcare, urging insured consumers to choose the most effective and highest quality care by providing financial incentives, has become the predominant strategy that employers are using to try to save money on healthcare expenditures, says John Young, senior vice president of consumerism and strategy at Alegeus, a company providing services for the administration of healthcare benefit accounts to health insurance plans, third party administrators, and others.

“People are starting to listen to the messages that all stakeholders are giving to them about how the healthcare dollars allocated to their accounts can best be optimized,” Young says. “They are starting to make decisions about healthcare based on the information they can obtain from doctors and hospitals about what it will cost them and what they are getting for their money in terms of quality.”

Consumers are steadily focusing more on the cost of their healthcare, according to the company’s 2017 Healthcare Consumerism Index, based on a survey of more than 1,400 U.S. healthcare consumers . Consumers were asked to assess their attitudes and behaviors for healthcare spending decisions on a 0-100 point scale and this year’s overall spending index of 60.1 represents a modest, yet steady, improvement over last year’s index of 54.4.

The survey found that 55% of consumers find out the price before receiving a medical service, up 15% from last year, and 60% research physician and facility quality ratings, up 11% from last year. Sixty-four percent say they understand the cost obligations of their insurance coverage, which is 9% higher.

“Doctors and hospitals are going to be getting more and more questions around cost and quality, and in the early stages of consumer-driven healthcare they often looked at the patient and said they no idea what this service would cost or how to measure quality,” Young says. “That is becoming less common today as doctors and hospitals develop better mechanisms for answering those questions, which in some cases means having a specific department or person to refer the patient to. The healthcare industry is realizing that they must respond to this consumerism that is growing steadily every year.”

Prior year data suggested that consumers were increasingly focused on cost and value, the report says, but their purchase behavior had not substantively changed. “Although we still have a long way to go, this year’s data shows that consumers are increasingly taking action to reduce costs and get better value for their healthcare dollars,” the report says.

Gregory A. Freeman is a contributing writer for HealthLeaders.

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