Survey: 32% of Patients Ask About Cost Before Appointment or Hospital Visit

Only 32 percent of patients asked about cost before visiting a nurse, physician, lab or hospital, according to the fall 2013 Altarum Institute Survey of Consumer Health Care Opinions.

That means, among patients who received care in one year (October 2012 through October 2013), 68 percent did not ask about costs before their visits. Younger consumers were more likely to ask about prices than older consumers: 37 percent of people ages 25-34 did so compared to 23 percent of people ages 55-64.  

Most consumers said they feel comfortable approaching their physician about healthcare costs, as four out of five were either somewhat or very comfortable doing so. Only 15 percent and 4 percent said they are somewhat and very uncomfortable, respectively.

Despite these comfort levels, consumers expressed little confidence in their ability to shop for less expensive care. Only 35 percent felt very or somewhat confident that they could take steps to find more affordable care, while 47 percent said they were uncertain and 18 percent were "not at all confident" that they could reduce costs, according to the survey.

The survey also includes findings on how often patients look for information on physicians' quality before choosing which provider to visit for care — 35 percent do so while 65 percent do not. Younger consumers were also more likely to look for quality ratings — 51 percent of people 25-34 did so compared to 23 percent of people ages 55-64.

Findings were based on a pool of 1,974 survey respondents.

More Articles on Hospitals, Prices and Consumers:

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23 Findings on Consumer-Hospital Relationships

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