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Consumer Survey on Health

By January 17, 2014Commentary

The Altarum Institute surveyed 1974 Americans, 65% female, regarding current health care topics.     (Altarum Institute Survey)   56% said their health was excellent or very good, 35% said good and 10% said it was fair or poor.  But over half said they were overweight and over 40% said they do not exercise enough, while 21% use tobacco regularly.  Around 80% received medical care from a provider in the past year, 14% were hospitalized and 28% went to a medical facility in the month before the survey.  Two-thirds use a prescribed drug.  Over half, however, said they sometimes forget to take or do not take medications as prescribed.

16% said they want to be completely in charge of health care decisions, somewhat of a decline from prior surveys.  43% want to make the final decisions but with input from physicians and others.  Only 1% said they want doctors to be completely in charge of their health care decisions.  63% said a doctor has given them more than one treatment option and invited them to discuss and choose among those and 83% said a physician has recommended a specific treatment.  The great majority of consumers rely on word of mouth to choose a new doctor, but a third say they use online resources.  Only 16% look at cost information when finding physicians.   And only a third asked about the cost of a service before the visit.  Younger consumers were likely to look for price and quality data before receiving a service.  Most consumers, however, said they would be comfortable asking a physician about cost.  Most consumers don’t feel very confident in their ability to shop for less expensive care.  They were more confident about their capability to shop on the basis of quality.

88% think health care costs are higher than they should be and 53% said consumers could make care more affordable through health behaviors and other efforts.  20% strongly agreed with the statement that there was nothing they could do to affect the cost of health care, and these individuals were much more likely to engage in poor health behaviors–there is a good disconnect.  Insurers and government receive the most blame for high costs, showing that most people don’t understand that insurers just pass on provider prices.  Over 64% were at least somewhat concerned with their ability to pay bills that insurance didn’t cover.  Almost all consumers are covered by a plan with a deductible, the majority over $1000, but 20% didn’t know the amount of the deductible.  Over 40% said they sometimes don’t get care because of cost concerns and many indicated they have their current job to get or keep insurance.  Around 37% monitor their personal information through a portal or online and a relatively small percent use online communication tools.  Depending on age, 15% to 42% have used a mobile health app, with the primary activities being exercise and diet tracking.

Overall, the picture is that consumers are aware of and attentive to health issues, but are often poorly informed and the unhealthiest consumers seem to feel the least responsibility.

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