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Survey: Half of Patients Would Switch Providers to Understand Costs at Scheduling Time

News  |  By Philip Betbeze  
   November 09, 2017

There’s room to take share if you provide cost estimates for patients upfront. Only a quarter of providers are able to provide cost estimates, even though 91% of patients want them, and 47% would consider switching to get that information.

Healthcare providers could be missing out on a big opportunity by not providing cost estimates for patients at the time of scheduling their service. Not only that, but they’re providing a wide opening for others to take their market share by filling the gap in transparency. A new survey and study by Accenture, the global strategy and consulting firm, shows that only about a quarter of healthcare providers are now able to provide out-of-pocket cost estimates for patients, even though 91% of patients want them.

Providers shouldn’t be afraid of sharing cost estimate information—the majority of patients aren’t using it to shop around, but rather to better plan their budgets, and 60% of people who know their medical costs in advance choose to proceed with the service. But here’s where providers that don’t provide the ability to predict costs are vulnerable: 47% would consider switching providers in order to better understand their out-of-pocket cost responsibility at the time of scheduling.

Among the insights:

  • Nearly half (46%) of patients need up-front cost information for budget planning purposes and many (41%) have concerns about their ability to pay. This concern is highest among uninsured (61%) and Medicaid (59%) segments.
  • Three-fifths (60%) of patients who know their medical cost in advance proceed with the service, but roughly a quarter (23%) opt to delay care, rather than canceling or switching to a lower-cost provider.
  • About half (47%) would switch providers to understand the costs of services at the time of scheduling appointments.
  • Only 11% use this information to shop for better deals. More price shopping was reported for routine services, such as dental (40%) and vision (35%) but less for diagnostic testing (24%), chronic care (15%) and surgical procedures (13%).
  • Gen X and younger consumers are more than three times as likely to price shop as older generations (17% vs. 5%), a trend likely to intensify as younger consumers mature.

The full survey suggests that intensifying efforts in providing price estimates for those who want them would increase patient engagement and satisfaction, rather than shift business away due to sticker shock, and may help improve collections and reduce bad debt in the long run.

Philip Betbeze is the senior leadership editor at HealthLeaders.

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