Offering healthcare price transparency has become more important than ever, as more and more patients research nearby hospitals and providers to understand their estimated out-of-pocket healthcare costs, according to new survey data from TransUnion Healthcare.
“Consumerism is here to stay in the healthcare industry. As more of the cost burden for medical care shifts to patients, people are paying attention to news about the economy and the impact it may have on their families,” said Dave Wojczynski, president of TransUnion Healthcare. “Consequently, patients are conducting research to determine the prices of medical procedures prior to care. For healthcare providers, this means they need to offer both quality care and a positive patient financial experience.”
The survey, which included responses from 2,500 patients that had visited a hospital, clinic, or doctor’s office within the past six months, revealed that 75 percent of patients are looking up the cost of medical procedures online. Patients consult health system and health insurance websites to understand their out-of-pocket financial responsibility before heading to the doctor.
And these price estimates can have a pretty big impact, the researchers found. Sixty-two percent of patients said that knowing their estimated out-of-pocket costs can influence whether or not they will access healthcare. Forty-nine percent said having a clear estimate of financial responsibility will impact whether they visit a certain provider.
These trends are especially salient among younger generations, who are more likely to use the internet to understand their out-of-pocket financial responsibility. Eighty-five and 84 percent of Gen Z and Millennial patients, respectively, said they research their cost burden before visiting the doctor. Between 60 and 65 percent said those out-of-pocket costs can sway whether they visit the doctor or hospital.
Gen X and Baby Boomer patients were less likely to consult the internet for cost estimates than their younger peers, although these patients are still looking for better healthcare price transparency.
Seventy-three percent of Gen X patients said they looked up healthcare costs online, compared to 65 percent of Baby Boomers. Forty-four and 34 percent of Gen X and Baby Boomer patients, respectively, said online price transparency influenced their healthcare access decisions.
“Younger generations are taking a very proactive approach and many are educating themselves on the financial aspects of their care prior to service. Patients are now experiencing larger out-of-pocket costs due to increased cost-shifting in commercial and government plans so the onus is now on them to know what their financial responsibility is upfront,” added Wojczynski.
This data comes as patient financial responsibility grows, the researchers found. Between 2017 and 2018, the number of patients on the hook from between $501 and $1,000 in out-of-pocket costs grew from 34 percent to 59 percent.
At the same time, only half of patients said they can access clear price transparency information, meaning only half of patients know how much they will owe prior to accessing healthcare.
Improving price transparency could lead to more patient payments, the TransUnion Healthcare data added. Sixty-five percent of patients said they would make a partial payment at the time of care if they had a price estimate.
FINANCIAL WOES CAN PREDICT HEALTHCARE ACCESS
In addition to looking at healthcare price transparency and patient financial responsibility trends, the TransUnion Healthcare researchers looked at how the state of the nation’s economy can impact their healthcare access habits. Specifically, the researchers surveyed patients about how the threat of a weakening economy will influence their decisions to access care.
Forty percent of survey respondents said the state of the nation’s economy could sway their healthcare access habits, with one in four respondents saying a weakening economy would motivate them to access healthcare they’d been putting off.
These results likely stem from mounting fears about the overall US economy. Patients may be concerned about job security, and therefore access to payer coverage. As the nation may be facing a potential economic downturn, the researchers suggest patients are getting their health affairs in order lest they face considerable economic issues going forward.
And as more patients seek out healthcare out of concern for their future finances, it may be helpful for organizations to understand how price transparency information may help the patient make healthcare decisions.
This article appeared in Patient Engagement HIT. Read more here.