What matters most to the health care consumer?

Insights for health care providers from the Deloitte 2016 Consumer Priorities in Health Care Survey

Gaining an understanding of what drives the choice-making for health care consumers is complex. The journey is complicated and multi-tiered, and differs greatly from the consumer experience in other industries. But as the health care industry continues to shift from volume to value, and as consumers take a more active role in managing their health care, the need to understand what matters most to them grows.

Findings from the Deloitte 2016 Consumer Priorities in Health Care Survey

In Deloitte’s 2016 Consumer Priorities in Health Care Survey, we explored a number of interactions consumers face throughout their health care experiences. Their expectations in these health care interactions are being shaped by the customized and convenient experiences they have grown accustomed to in other industries, like retail and banking.

As a result, they are demanding greater personalization; transparency in network coverage, medical prices, and bills; convenience; and more engaging digital experiences and capabilities. From doctor’s appointments to lab visits and even hospitalizations, consumers seek high quality service tailored to their specific needs from health care providers and administrative staff.

As technology advances in other areas, consumers expect the same of health care. If they can book a flight from their mobile device, why not a doctor’s appointment? Increased convenience could be facilitated at the point of patients’ self-research, scheduling, intake, and the discussion and scheduling of follow-on treatment needs. While this process remains largely manual today, despite significant investment in health IT, expanding the digital connection to providers could enhance convenience and personalization for the health care consumer.

The engaged health care consumer is proactive about their care management and cost considerations, and takes the time to understand larger aspects of the health care ecosystem that pertain to them. Therefore, consumers are increasingly expecting more out of the services they receive from their providers.

In response, players across the health care ecosystem are developing strategies to better meet the demands of the engaged consumer. Providers are working more collaboratively with health plans, technology companies, pharmacies, retailers, and device makers to streamline processes. While digital tools are not yet the highest priority or concern of health care consumers, as evidenced in recent Deloitte studies, their usage will be vital to the future of consumerism.

As part of a comprehensive study of the engaged health care consumer, Deloitte has developed and applied a number of tools to determine not just what consumers want or prefer, but how they prioritize their health care choices. Every day, consumers make tough decisions on how to manage their health care. Spending money and time—often in limited supply—on health care services puts consumers in the position of making difficult choices. Our evaluative efforts through several consumer surveys conducted over the past year, as well as leadership panels and focus groups, are critical to comprehending how consumers put preferences and interests into action.

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What makes the health care consumer tick?

The health care consumer landscape is changing. Engaged consumers desire greater levels of self-service, access to information, greater choice, and real-time interactions. The system is responding with new capabilities and tools to assist consumers, increasing collaboration across the ecosystem and simplifying communications and support.

To meaningfully explore what makes the health care consumer tick, we began with a series of fundamental questions:
  • How is the engaged consumer defined?
  • How are their attitudes and preferences measured?
  • How do their preferences vary?
  • What do they prefer the most?
  • How do their “likes” and “wants” translate into actual transactional decisions? 
  • What are the implications for provider organizations?

We reviewed previous Deloitte surveys and reports as well as other evidence from the marketplace, and determined a critical question needed to be answered: “What is most important to health care consumers?”

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Survey findings

Survey findings revealed a series of top-tier priorities expressed by consumers with regards to their providers:

Consumers want to be known and understood in order to get a personalized health care experience; providers are in the best position to deliver it.

According to Deloitte’s Survey of US Health Care Consumers, 75 percent of consumers seek a partnership with their providers to determine the most effective treatment decisions. And one in three consumers wants their provider to push them to be more active in researching and questioning their prescribed treatments.

We found that the number one preferred interaction is having a doctor or other health care provider spend sufficient time with the patient and not rushing through exams.

Relationships with providers can be complex, often emotionally charged, and become increasingly crucial over time as older patients often find themselves with increased face-to-face care and support needs. The most attuned providers can steer consumers effectively by focusing on the element of human touch.

Download the survey to read in detail the health care interactions that stood out in each of the four thematic clusters.

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Survey methodology

The Deloitte 2016 Consumer Priorities in Health Care Survey was conducted in April 2016. We used a “bracket” method akin to those used in sports tournament structures. It pitted 64 random sets of statements about consumers’ interactions with the health care ecosystem against one another. It put our respondents on the spot by asking them to make specific choices about the various aspects of the health care system that they valued the most.

Previously, Deloitte conducted a focus group to investigate consumer behaviors that they may value most, and to capture interactions with the health care system in the voice of the consumer. These responses informed the set of 64 interactions with providers (and health plans) that we further explored using an online survey. We surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,787 consumers, but also had a focus on specific demographic cohorts, such as senior and Hispanic consumers, to more fully understand how certain groups view their overall health care experience.

Respondents were asked to select health care interactions that were most important to them in building a positive consumer experience, and those that were least important.

To provide a more comprehensive assessment of today’s health care consumer and the impact on the provider space, we supplemented the 2016 Consumer Priorities in Health Care Survey with other targeted Deloitte studies over the past year, including the Survey of US Health Care Consumers, American Pantry Study, Mobile Consumer Survey, and Millennial Survey. We also consulted third-party databases and the findings of our own focus group on health care consumerism.

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