Change Healthcare-Harris Poll study: Every step in the process is a chore for healthcare consumers

January 22, 2021 12:48 am

Author’s note: The information shared in this article provides only a fraction of the data and insight offered by presenters. HFMA members can view on-demand sessions beginning July 21. 

When healthcare consumers were asked in a recent national study about their experiences finding, accessing and paying for healthcare, they reported struggling to navigate each of those areas. Throughout the entire process, there also is a lack of clarity about the cost of services.

Presented at the July 17 HFMA Digital Annual Conference session “Creating a consumer-centric patient-experience in a post-pandemic world,” the insights were based on the input of 1,945 consumers across the nation who participated in a study conducted by the Harris Poll and commissioned by Change Healthcare.

“We were frankly startled by the information that the consumer has shared back with us,” said Bill Krause, a vice president and general manager with Change Healthcare and one of the session presenters.

Every step of the journey is difficult

“Consumers are telling us, they’re feeling like they’re general contractors for their healthcare needs,” Krause said. “In fact … [56%] are telling us that it’s very difficult for them to coordinate care across all the providers they’re seeing.”

Krause also shared that 67% of study respondents said every step of the healthcare process “feels like a chore,” and 62% believe the healthcare experience was “designed purposely to be confusing.”

“We know, working hard every day in the trenches to improve the healthcare consumer experience, that’s not the message we want to hear,” Krause said about the disconnect between healthcare providers and consumers.

Although finding healthcare is hard, consumers said accessing and paying for it is even more difficult for them, according to Abbey Lunney, director of trends and thought leadership at Harris Insights & Analytics and Krause’s co-presenter.

Pain points in finding healthcare

“Initially, what we see is that the journey is so overwhelming, many are opting out altogether,” Lunney said. Additional study results show:

  • 67% of study respondents say “finding a great doctor or medical practice is like finding a needle in a haystack”
  • 60% say the search takes too much effort
  • 62% say it takes too much time

“Often when faced with those mountains to climb, half of consumers have avoided care, simply because they just weren’t sure where to start, which was particularly true for millennials and parents,” Lunney said.

A similar number of respondents avoid healthcare due to costs and the lack of price transparency, according to Lunney.

Pain points in accessing healthcare

Once consumers find the healthcare they need and schedule an appointment, the next step is accessing care, Lunney said. Respondents said the most difficult parts of this process were:

  • Knowing whether their healthcare plan covers the proposed treatment, or whether the plan proposes another treatment and why
  • Understanding what impact the care will have on their out-of-pocket costs
  • Gathering and completing the necessary paperwork
  • The top three barriers consumers face when trying to access care are:
  • Difficulty finding a provider that takes the time to understand their full history and speak with other care providers
  • Gathering and completing necessary paperwork
  • Not fully understanding whether and how the cost of treatment may change during the visit

Pain points in paying for healthcare

Paying for care is the most complex part of the journey for consumers today, according to Lunney. The following issues were described by study respondents as top pain points:

  • 68% say they don’t know how much an appointment will cost until months after the fact
  • 61% say when bills do arrive, they are more complex than a mortgage payment
  • 59% of respondents don’t know how much an appointment will cost beforehand
  • 48% are uncomfortable asking the provider for more details on what they owe

The top 6 things providers can do to ease the pain

Among study respondents, the top six requests are for healthcare providers to offer:

  1. Transparent language on billing information about what was charged and why (38%)
  2. A portal that tracks the path and status of a medical claim (24%)
  3. Payment plans that allow consumers to pay for a portion of the services at a time (23%)
  4. Information on how to negotiate or dispute a charge (21%)
  5. Automatically negotiated rates  based on the volume of services (18%)
  6. Push notifications whenever activity occurs on a medical bill (17%)

Providers understand they have work to do

In to a 2019 healthcare consumerism survey by Kaufman Hall, providers indicated they understood the importance of consumer-centric priorities, such as improving the customer experience and using digital tools, but also noted they did not have capabilities to make those things happen, Krause said.

The provider industry ranked its capabilities very low in bringing the consumer-centric priorities to life, “suggesting that there’s a lot of work to be done,” Krause said.


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