Healthcare Consumerism – Impact on Patients and Providers

Today’s healthcare consumers are paying close attention to their insurance plans and medical coverage. Per a recent TransUnion Healthcare consumer survey, 62% of patients indicated that knowing their out-of-pocket expenses in advance impacted the likelihood of pursuing care. It’s hard for anyone to keep track of changes in their plans and weigh the benefits of high deductible plans amid increased denials. Despite these influences, the cost of care continues to rise.

As much as they’re able, patients are looking to better control and manage their healthcare costs. This may include trying to avoid surprise medical bills that can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars, or being more interested and aware in price transparency. And, according to TransUnion Healthcare’s most recent healthcare survey, patients — especially Millennials and Gen Z respondents — are affected by reports about a weakening state of the economy and its potential impact on their healthcare.

In particular, some 43% of 2,500 respondents surveyed in August 2019 said the state of the economy has a “great impact” on how they seek medical treatment. In the TransUnion Healthcare survey mentioned, one in four patients said that media reports of a weakening economy have caused them to leverage their existing healthcare insurance and get a checkup or other medical treatment they may have been putting off.

As a key sign of heightened awareness of the economy, patients are more frequently asking about their out-of-pocket costs before receiving treatment. With patients continuing to be burdened with more payment responsibility, some may be put at risk for significant medical debt. And, as healthcare costs rise, there continues to be confusion around billing. 

Just half of survey respondents said that they were provided with clear information on their expected out-of-pocket costs before receiving treatment. Some 49% said they didn’t fully understand what their financial responsibility would be for their medical bill. Sixty-five percent of respondents said if given an estimate for their healthcare bill at the time of service, they would be willing to make at least a partial payment to better manage their financial situations.

Growing healthcare consumerism is also impacting how patients approach getting care. According to the survey, 75% of healthcare consumers researched their out-of-pocket costs prior to seeking services.  Furthermore, nearly half noted having clear information on out-of-pocket costs before receiving treatment affects their decision to use a healthcare provider.

This thinking is taking root especially with younger patients — those under 40 years of age, represented as Generation Z and Millennials. For instance, this group is the most engaged about their healthcare costs and the most reactive to economic news. Nearly a third of Millennials — higher than any age group surveyed — said they’d taken action regarding their healthcare as a result of news about a weakening economy. Millennials and Gen Z respondents were more susceptible (51% to 60%) to being influenced by news of the state of the economy in seeking medical treatment. For these consumers, having an idea of the costs they’re likely to incur impacts their likelihood of pursuing care. Some 72% of Millennials and 64% of Gen Z respondents agreed that knowing the out-of-pocket expenses they’ll incur before service influences their likelihood of seeking care.

The survey emphasizes the importance — and rise — of healthcare consumerism. Three quarters of respondents said they research healthcare, and about half said they choose a healthcare provider based on their costs.  

As such, it’s critical healthcare providers offer both quality care and create a positive patient financial experience. The benefits of this are twofold: With more transparent pricing information and an accurate estimate of the costs associated with their care, patients stand to be less confused by their payment responsibility and more likely to pay their bill. Most patients have the ability and actually want to pay their bill, but they don’t always “trust” (or understand) the amounts. Having transparent, engaged conversations with patients instills trust and helps them focus on getting better instead of worrying about their bill.

About the Author

Jonathan Wiik has almost 25 years of healthcare experience in acute care, health IT and insurance settings. He started his career as a hospital transporter and served in clinical operations, patient access, billing, case management and many other roles leading up to Chief Revenue Officer. His cumulative expertise gives him keen awareness and vast knowledge into the inner workings of the revenue cycle across the continuum of care. He currently serves as a Principal of Healthcare Strategy at TransUnion Healthcare. 

For more information about price transparency, patient payment estimation and financial clearance solutions, visit transunion.com/patient-access. TransUnion Healthcare’s robust revenue recovery solutions help maximize reimbursement opportunities. Learnmore: https://www.transunion.com/solution/healthcare-revenue-recovery.

 

 

 

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