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Altarum Consumer Survey

By July 9, 2014Commentary

The Altarum Institute surveyed about 2100 adults aged 18 to 64 on attitudes in regard to various health care topics.  It should be noted that the respondents were overweighted to women, Caucasians and higher income people.  (Altarum Survey)   In regard to medical decision-making, 24% say they want to be completely in charge and 38% say they want to make a final decision with medical professional input, while 30% prefer shared decision-making with their doctor and about 7% basically want to leave it up to the doctor.  These percentages haven’t changed since 2011.  The primary factor in choosing a doctor continues to be the recommendations of friends and family, while about a quarter have used online ratings of either quality or “bedside manner” and wait times to help them decide.  Only 16% used cost of care information and ads influenced only 11%.  Only about 40% have looked for data about price or quality before they went to see a doctor.  Only one-third of consumers are somewhat or very confident in their ability to do price comparison shopping, while 56% say they can compare performance results.  This is surprising because the reality is that cost information is likely more accurate and easier to understand than quality measures.

Most consumers, 89%, have anxiety about ability to pay for health care.  And while 84% say they are comfortable asking doctors about costs, only 56% say they have ever done that.  A surprisingly high 87% said they have a primary care physician and 77% had high levels of commitment to that doctor.  But paying more to continue to access that doctor changes the level of commitment radically, with 50% saying they wouldn’t pay anything more and only 16% being willing to pay more than $25 more a month to keep their current physician.  About half of respondents let the doctor take the lead on the visit but ask a few questions, 41% say they bring a list of questions to cover.  What seems like a very high 69% said they check out their symptoms online before going to a doctor and 64% said they educate themselves about conditions they know they have.  A third say they probably go to the doctor sooner than they may really need to, while two-thirds think they tend to wait too long.  Around 70% say they accept a physician’s recommendation even if they have doubts.  Younger consumers were twice as likely to skip preventive services as older ones.  Forty-two percent said their most recent health care need was mild, 37% said it was moderate while 22% said it was serious or very serious.  Most would rely on medical professionals for care when they are ill, but almost half said it was somewhat or very likely they would call on their faith to help.   Around 17% said they or someone they knew had experienced an error related to prescription drugs, and somewhat lower percent had an experience with other medical errors.

An interesting survey which shows that despite all the discussion about consumer engagement, and using cost and quality information, most consumers don’t and/or are not comfortable searching for and considering this data in their decisions.

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