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Consumer Sentiments for Accessing Health Care

COVID-19: Shaping a New Health Care Experience for Consumers

After nearly two months of quarantining, many Americans are ready to get their health care journeys back on track. This comes as more states have resumed elective procedures and more local governments are expected to make a similar decision in the coming weeks. However, health care won’t be the same as it was before.

Pent-Up Demand

In my last article, I discussed the pent-up demand of elective procedures and the need for health care facilities to properly prepare to address this. We recently conducted a survey, which supports that this demand will be coming quickly, showing that 80% of adults plan to schedule or reschedule procedures within the next 6 months, and 45% are looking to reschedule in the first 3 months. Additionally, recent data from our SmartShopper Personal Assistant Team shows that call volume has been trending upwards, as consumers start to shop again for elective procedures and need information and support to understand options and schedule appointments. Consumers need to think through when and where they want to schedule or reschedule procedures, taking into account that their regular go-to facility may have closed due to the pandemic or could be overwhelmed with rescheduling canceled appointments.

Care Selection Decisions

For consumers, COVID-19’s widespread impact has changed how they are planning to approach their care. Our survey revealed that nearly 1 in 2 adults (47%) will change how they access care following the pandemic, being more selective in the type of procedures they get, where they go for their procedures and the cost of their procedures. Many Americans are nervous about returning to hospitals and medical centers, signaling a shift in care settings and desire by consumers to receive care in ambulatory facilities.

Cost Concerns

It’s no secret – health care has been overly expensive for years. However, the economic impact of the pandemic is putting more strain on Americans’ wallets, making high-cost care even less affordable. Based on our survey, nearly half (47%) of Americans age 18-64 are more concerned about the cost of health care now than they were before COVID-19. The concern is slightly higher for adults age 44 and younger, of which 53% said they are more concerned, as well as adults from Hispanic backgrounds and non-Caucasian ethnicity. For example, 65% of Hispanic adults and 61% of African American adults are more concerned about the cost of care now.

As the nation slowly recovers from the pandemic, consumers are looking for higher quality, lower cost and more accessible care options. As I mentioned previously, now is time for consumers to use health care navigation tools to compare costs and make informed decisions about their care. These tools also offer personalized customer support to ease the navigation process, providing the human touch to what can be a very emotionally difficult process. In fact, our survey reveals that more than 8 in 10 consumers would find these types of tools helpful.

During this time, I urge health plans and employers to remind their members and employees that these tools are available to them. Whether a health plan, employer, or health technology company, it’s our collective responsibility to support Americans in their health care journeys and do what we can to support them as we all navigate our new health care reality.

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