More Americans are turning to technology first to evaluate health conditions, and a growing number are interested in using the internet to access medical care, while opportunities remain to improve peoples’ understanding of basic health insurance terms and the connection between lifestyle choices and disease, according to a new UnitedHealthcare study.
These are some of the findings from the second annual UnitedHealthcare Consumer Sentiment Survey, which examines Americans’ attitudes and opinions about multiple areas of health care, including technology trends, health literacy and customer service. The survey’s key findings include:
- More Americans are turning to technology first to access health information and care. A growing number (42 percent) said they would be likely to use telemedicine in the future to access care, a 5 percentage point increase from 2016.
- Most people underestimated the connection between lifestyle choices and disease. Many respondents underestimated the connection between modifiable lifestyle choice and chronic conditions, with just 23 percent of people correctly recognizing that 80 percent or more of premature chronic conditions are linked to controllable decisions such as smoking or poor diet.
- Many people say they are prepared for open enrollment. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of people said they are prepared for open enrollment, while 22 percent said they are unprepared.
- Understanding of basic insurance terms slightly improved. Just 9 percent of respondents successfully defined all four basic health insurance concepts: plan premium, deductible, co-insurance and out-of-pocket maximum. That’s a slight improvement from 7 percent a year ago.
- When it comes to customer service, people prefer live support. Most people (84 percent) preferred speaking with a customer service representative, up from 78 percent last year.
“This survey highlights why UnitedHealthcare continues to develop new ways to simplify the health care experience and make it easier and more convenient for people to access care,” said Rebecca Madsen, chief consumer officer of UnitedHealthcare. “These survey findings will build upon our experience creating innovative ways to engage with customers and help them navigate the health care system.”
Technology Becomes More Popular Way to Research Health Care
The use of websites and mobile apps to research health care options is increasing, with 28 percent of respondents saying online resources are their first option when evaluating health symptoms or conditions. Among millennials (18 to 36 year olds), internet/mobile apps were the first option for 36 percent of respondents, compared to 20 percent for Baby Boomers (53 to 71 year olds). Nearly half (45 percent) of respondents said they turn first to a primary care physician or nurse to research health conditions or symptoms, the only choice that ranked higher than the internet/mobile apps.
Nearly one-third of respondents (32 percent) have used the internet or mobile apps during the last year to compare the cost of medical services. That’s more than double from 14 percent in 2012 (according to another UnitedHealthcare study). Nearly half (44 percent) of millennials this year said they have used online or mobile resources to comparison shop for health care treatments or services. Among all comparison shoppers, 80 percent described the process as “very helpful” or “somewhat helpful.”
Even so, many people underestimated the actual cost of specific health services. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) estimated the total cost of a knee replacement between $5,000 and $25,000 – lower than the national average of $36,000, according to www.guroo.com.
Medicare Advantage and the Future of Medicare
Most Americans believe Medicare will evolve in the coming years, even though there is a high level of satisfaction among some beneficiaries. More than nine out of 10 respondents (92 percent) enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans said they are satisfied with their benefits.
In regard to potential program changes, 79 percent of respondents said the federal government should shift the program away from the traditional fee-for-service system to a model that emphasizes preventive care and rewards physicians for health outcomes, which is the focus of Medicare Advantage.
Connection Between Lifestyle Choices and Health Conditions
Some Americans recognize the connection between lifestyle choices and chronic health conditions.
Nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of survey respondents correctly recognized that 80 percent or more of premature chronic conditions, such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes, are caused by modifiable lifestyle choices, such as risk factors like smoking or obesity, as opposed to being caused by genetic factors. More than one-third (37 percent) thought between 50 and 79 percent of premature chronic conditions were caused by lifestyle choices, while 35 percent said genetics were to blame for more than half of these diseases.
A larger percentage of Americans recognized the link between oral and overall health. Many respondents (82 percent) correctly recognized that oral health can affect overall health, with 60 percent saying dental health may have a “significant impact” on overall health.
Meanwhile, 71 percent of respondents correctly recognized there is little to no connection between the cost and quality of medical services, as some studies have shown little correspondence between higher-priced health care providers and improved health outcomes.
For complete survey results, click here.
About the Survey
The UnitedHealthcare Consumer Sentiment Survey was conducted using ORC International’s Telephone CARAVAN® omnibus among a landline and cell phone probability sample of 1,006 U.S. adults age 18 and older. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. Supplemental interviewing, also among probability samples, was conducted over the period Aug. 10-27, 2017.
UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to helping people nationwide live healthier lives by simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care providers. The company offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals, employers, military service members, retirees and their families, and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with 1 million physicians and care professionals, and 6,000 hospitals and other care facilities nationwide. UnitedHealthcare is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified Fortune 50 health and well-being company. For more information, visit UnitedHealthcare at www.uhc.com or follow @UHC on Twitter.