UnitedHealthcare survey reveals limited health literacy
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
According to a new survey, a significant number of Americans comparison shop for healthcare services, but limited health literacy may keep them from understanding what they're shopping for. Wait, there's more: Apparently, these same folks don't have positive thoughts when it comes to technology and healthcare either.
But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let's consider the source.
UnitedHealthcare released the results of its annual consumer survey, reporting that nearly one-third of respondents (32 percent) comparison shop for healthcare treatments, procedures and services. However, few seem to have a grasp on basic health insurance concepts. For example, just 9 percent of respondents could define all four basic insurance concepts outlined by the survey: insurance premium, deductible, co-insurance and out-of-pocket maximum.
In addition, some of the those surveyed appeared to be confused about how insurance networks work; 36 percent said they thought visiting an in-network provider would increase their care costs, while 24 percent thought it would have no impact on cost. In fact, 38 percent did not even understand what the term "in-network healthcare provider" means.
According to the research, those insured often overestimate the cost of common medical tests but underestimate the price for more complex surgical procedures. As such, just 4 percent of respondents could correctly estimate the cost of a knee MRI, and only 10 percent could guess the correct price for a knee replacement.
To further highlight the point, UnitedHealthcare points out the average price nationwide for a knee replacement is $36,000, but the majority of respondents (63 percent) estimated between $5,000 and $25,000. Not necessarily the biggest surprise here since the price of major operations is not something that most of us keep top of mind or tucked into our pockets. But the point is made, we'll give them that.
Now, moving onto some of the juicy details.
The survey suggests that consumers' affinity for and use of healthcare technology isn't so great. Accordingly, 28 percent of respondents said either the internet or mobile apps are their first source for information about health conditions or symptoms — an increase from 25 percent in 2016's survey.
As expected, adoption of such technology rates are highest for millennials, with 36 percent saying they use tech as a primary source for health information. Meanwhile, just 20 percent of baby boomers surveyed said the same. (On a different note, 44 percent of millennials said they comparison shop online for healthcare services.)
Despite the continued focus on telemedicine by the media and industry insiders, UnitedHealthcare says 46 percent of those surveyed said they would be unlikely to use telehealth services, compared to 42 percent who said they'd be likely to do so. Likewise, 29 percent said they would be "very unlikely" to use the technology, while just 16 percent said they would be "very likely" to.
However, this is coming from a member of the payer party that may or may not be encouraging use of the technology given the payment and reimbursement issues telehealth has faced for those providers and patients wanting to engage with the technology.
When an agency procures its own survey, the results might lead wherever the survey body wants. So, in this survey of 1,000 adults, we might wish to examine the politics or the agenda of the body releasing the information.
Given the results from a wide variety of other surveys suggesting that telehealth use is on fire, the results featured above seem to be a bit of an outlier.
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