Frugal patients won't change docs to save money

Paradox: Patients want affordable healthcare but aren't likely to switch physicians or track costs
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Healthcare consumers are most concerned with "affordability," according to a recent survey by management consulting firm Accenture. At the same time, however, the research revealed a paradox, in that a minority of patients indicated that costs would affect their healthcare decisions, according to the report.

To get a glimpse at the preferences of "retail healthcare consumers"--the patients likely to shop for individual policies in health insurance exchanges once the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented--Accenture surveyed about 2,000 adults younger than 65, who are currently uninsured, covered by an individual health insurance policy or covered by a group policy for businesses with fewer than 100 employees.

According to the report, "Patients know what they want, but they don't know how to get there," as illustrated by the following preferences among retail healthcare consumers:

  • 81 percent surveyed said they want help improving their health and wellness, but 40 percent did not identify going to the doctor for regular checkups as a top priority.
  • 60 percent listed "low out-of-pocket costs" when they visit the doctor as a top priority, but only 19 percent prioritized "understanding in advance how much care would cost" or having tools to track and budget health expenses.
  • 72 percent are most concerned with affordability, but fewer than 30 percent are willing to change care settings or doctors to reduce costs. In particular, 43 percent said they would change brand prescriptions to treat the same condition, 29 percent said they would switch to a new hospital; 23 percent said they would switch to a new primary care physician, and 41 percent said they would see a nurse practitioner (NP) instead of a doctor to save costs.

Regarding the 41 percent who would consider using NPs to save money, Jan Towers, an NP who directs health policy at the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, told Medscape Medical News that she considered the figure to be "pretty good," especially considering that much of the public may not understand the kind of care NPs provide.

To learn more:
- read the report from Accenture
- see the story from Medscape Today

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