American Consumers Want More from their Healthcare System

A new survey by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, part of Deloitte LLP, finds that many American consumers want more from their healthcare system than they’re currently getting – including greater online connection to health care providers and medical records, customized insurance coverage and wider access to emerging innovations such as retail clinics.

Deloitte’s 2008 Survey of Health Care Consumers, was conducted as an online poll of more than 3,000 Americans ages 18-75, and provides an important and timely perspective on health care consumerism.

Essentially, the survey debunks a number of myths that established players in the healthcare marketplace want us to believe about how the average American is not ready to accept more responsibility for managing their own healthcare decisions. Here are a few:

Myth: Consumers believe that the majority of doctors, hospitals and health plans are essentially alike and that care and service quality doesn’t vary considerably.

Fact: Consumers see distinctions in quality: They are paying attention to differences and want more information to make comparisons.

Myth: Consumers trust their doctor to make decisions for them.

Fact: The majority of consumers want to share decision-making with their doctor; only 20% are content to let their doctor control those decisions unilaterally.

Myth: Consumers pay little attention to prices for health care services.

Fact: Consumers are paying attention to prices for their prescriptions, office visits, hospital services and insurance premiums. They want tools to help them know in advance what those costs will be.


Myth: Consumers prefer to stay close to home for their doctor and hospital services.

Fact: Consumers will travel across state lines or country borders to save money or get better quality: They recognize that close at home may not mean “best at home.”

Myth: Consumers are afraid to use the Internet for clinical transactions in health care, fearing loss of privacy and security.

Fact: Consumers are comfortable using the Internet to exchange clinical information with their doctor, especially if it results in better coordination of care and improved service. (They believe their doctors should make greater use of the Internet to provide access to medical records, test results and other types of information.)

Myth: Consumers are not paying attention to health care in the 2008 Presidential campaign.

Fact: Consumers believe health care is a key political issue and many will vote based on health care issues alone.

This would indicate to me a population that is willing and eager to take on more responsibility for making health care choices, including seeking out lower cost and more convenient options including the use of email, the internet, and traveling abroad if necessary to receive less expensive care. Couple this with the fact that only 52 percent of consumers say they understand their insurance coverage and we have a cry for change.

Change must occur at the insurance plan level by giving consumers the ability to customize their coverage. The study found that a substantial number of consumers are increasingly drawn to non-allopathic (holistic, natural) approaches to care and to interventions that are less “chemically” based (biologics). Integration of non-allopathic and allopathic medicine is sought. Consumer-directed plans that utilize account-based programs such as health savings accounts and health reimbursement arrangements are a step in the direction of meeting this demand.

Change must also occur at the provider level. Providers from primary care physicians to major medical centers must come to terms with the fact that Americans expect their health care systems to be able to be convenient and to communicate with them they way everyone else does – electronically. It is ridiculous that we continue to fill out our medical histories on a sheet of paper every time we are introduced to a new provider.

This survey should help provide encouragement and impetus to those who are working to revamp the healthcare system from a consumer’s point of view.

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