Out‐of‐pocket costs, wait time have little influence on patients' choice of care setting

Out‐of‐pocket costs and wait time did not significantly influence patient preference for the site at which they receive care, according to a study published in Health Services Research.

Between September 2016 and December 2016, researchers conducted a survey of people employed by the University of California, Irvine. The participants were given 10 clinical scenarios and asked to choose the care setting. Researchers received responses from 5,451 employees.

The survey shows that while out‐of‐pocket costs and wait time did not greatly influence site of care preferences, clinical scenario and patient characteristics did drive choice of care setting.

For example, a majority of respondents reported that the doctor's office was the preferred choice for chronic conditions and children's well‐visits, but the emergency room or urgent care clinics were the settings of choice for most acute conditions.

"The low impact of out‐of‐pocket costs suggests that insurers interested in encouraging increased utilization of alternatives would need to consider substantial changes to benefit structure," study authors concluded.

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