2009 Survey of Health Care Consumers: Foreword by Dr. Paul Keckley
On March 5, 2009, the White House hosted a Health Summit to officially launch a bi-partisan effort to rein in health care costs while expanding access to health insurance for the 46 million Americans who are currently uninsured.
Anticipating the importance of health care reform to economic recovery, the Obama team in December 2008 conducted 3,276 community discussions about health reform involving 30,608 consumers. The findings, although not surprising, underscored the public’s discontent with the status quo and desire for needed reform. Poor service, high costs and frustration in navigating the complexities of insurance topped the list of concerns.
The transformation of the U.S. health care system requires a deep understanding of the role that consumers play – how they think and behave relative to the lifestyles they choose, the purchases they make and the assumptions they follow in preparing for future health problems and possible costs.
Consumerism in health care is to some an ill-conceived notion: The idea that individuals have the ability to make informed decisions about diagnoses, therapeutics, healthiness, insurance and over-the-counter products and services is thought risky since these matters are complex. Others believe that engaging consumers is key to correcting flaws in the system. This group reasons that the disconnect between the goods and services consumers use and the costs associated with consumption contributes to avoidable costs and suboptimal care.
The " 2009 Survey of Health Care Consumers," conducted by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, is Deloitte LLP’s second annual study of health care consumers’ attitudes, behaviors and unmet needs. It offers health care industry leaders and policymakers a timely look at how health care consumerism is evolving and a comprehensive perspective about how Americans approach their health, health care and health insurance.
The study’s framework reflects a broad-based view of consumerism in six zones: (1) wellness and healthy living, including self-care and health management; (2) information sources helpful in consumer decision making; (3) traditional health services provided by medical professionals, hospitals and retail clinics, as well as prescription medications and medical devices; (4) alternative health services sometimes described as complementary medicine; (5) insurance coverage and other financial considerations; and (6) opinions about health care reform.
The results of this study are conclusive: Consumers want better performance from their health care system. They think it is wasteful, inefficient, complex and expensive. They are frustrated that the tools useful to them in making decisions about their health are not readily available. They like innovations that result in lower costs and more convenience. They want better value for the dollars they spend and believe fundamental changes are necessary to achieve these goals.
Although the health care consumer market is complex, it is imperative that providers, payors, policymakers, device, pharmaceutical, technology and biotech organizations understand and respond to consumers’ expressed concerns, interests and needs. Engaging consumers appropriately is fundamental to health care reform. Consumerism in health care is a trend, not a fad.
Paul H. Keckley, Ph.D.
Deloitte Center for Health Solutions