Healthcare Experience Blog

Health insurance companies struggle to achieve trust with hospital execs

Trust is a fragile commodity, yet the need for it may never be greater. As the shift from volume to value-based payments accelerates, providers and payers are working more closely together than ever negotiating ACOs, Pay for Quality, and Bundled Payments. Trust underlies these contracts, which is why asking about it is the central theme of our annual survey done collaboration with ReviveHealth.

Using a Trust Index we developed based on relevant academic literature on the topic, hospital executives reported on the amount of behavioral reliability, honesty, and fairness they experience with the nation’s largest health insurance companies.

Now in its 9th year, this research shows that overall the level of trust between payers and providers remains low. Some payers are seen as more trustworthy than others—with Cigna scoring the best marks multiple years in a row and UnitedHealthcare the worst.

But all the major payers included in this year’s study have relatively low scores, and the scores have not materially changed year over year, except in one case, where Anthem saw a big dip.

Those are three major findings from our just-released 2015 National Payor Study, conducted jointly by ReviveHealth and Catalyst Healthcare Research.

The survey was conducted using both online and telephone methods, and included just over 200 participants. Respondents were executives with US hospital and health systems, particularly those who negotiate and handle contracts with payer organizations. The survey conducted in 2014 had a similar sample size.

To view a brief PowerPoint deck showing the results for this year and how they compare to last year’s please click here.

Technology bridges the generation gap

Healthcare going online may not seem like an earth-shattering concept to you–unless you’re in the midst of adapting to the requirements of Meaningful Use in your hospital, system, or practice.

Patients interacting with their healthcare is, however, a relatively new phenomenon but it’s rapidly taking hold.

In our 2014 “What’s Reasonable?” study, we, not surprisingly, found that the younger generations, X (ages 21-33) and Y (ages 34-48) are the ones that are most likely to prefer online access to healthcare information and providers. They’re the ones most likely to want to pay their medical bills, look at their lab results and make a future routine appointment online, versus more conventional means.

More of the consumers in older segments (ages 49 and up) did tend to prefer traditional rather than online methods of communication with a doctor’s office, at least for certain functions including reviewing/paying their medical bill and making a future appointment.

While Generations X and Y are more strident in wanting healthcare to move online, Baby Boomers are actually the biggest consumers of healthcare services in the U.S. right now. And keep this in mind: 84% of our Baby Boomer respondents, more than in any other age cohort, are already using the Internet to find out information about a medical condition or drug.

How long will it be before they also start putting pressure on healthcare providers to “get online” and make it easy to set appointments, refill a prescription, get medical advice, and view their lab results? Meaningful Use can’t get here fast enough for lots of Baby Boomers who already use smartphones.

The use of technology is certainly not limited to just Generations X and Y. Baby Boomers’ huge presence in healthcare makes them a significant influencer in healthcare’s future–and the move for 24-7 online access and information.

To learn more about our 2014 “What’s Reasonable?” study and download a full deck of the results, click here.

McKinsey says “Digitize Healthcare Access”

Earlier this month, McKinsey & Company published a study that resonates with much of what we found in our 2014 “What’s Reasonable” Study among American consumers.

They surveyed consumers in the UK, Germany, and Singapore.  They said the belief by many healthcare executives that consumers don’t want to use digital services to meet their healthcare needs is flawed.  They suggest that when executives point to the low level of usage of digital healthcare services, it’s because “existing services don’t meet their needs or because they are of poor quality” (meaning, a bad user experience, I believe).

Their study shows that more than 75% of the consumers in these countries expect to use digital services for healthcare related activities. McKinsey also says in their report that “across the globe, most people want the same thing:  assistance with routine tasks and navigating the often-complex healthcare system.”

The one service patients most often cite as most needed is an easy and efficient means of “finding and scheduling physician appointments.”  They also found people want basic services including help finding the right specialist and refilling prescriptions digitally.  Their report adds “What most of these services have in common is that they do NOT require massive IT investments to get started.”

A final point to bear in mind:  The authors of the McKinsey study suggest that a health system’s success in implementing a digital strategy “depends very much on first understanding patients’ digital preferences in both channel and service.”

I recommend you take a look at their study, and our recent study, and then contact us to help you assess the needs and priorities of consumers in your marketplace.  That way, you can make investments that will pay off in terms of finding new patients for your physicians, increasing the level of loyalty among your patient base, and meeting your Meaningful Use requirements.

It all starts with…an email

If you’ve read any of my past blogs, or know anything about my company, you know that we are major proponents of online surveying. But online surveying in healthcare often comes with a huge obstacle: capturing patients’ email addresses!

Of course, some healthcare organizations routinely ask patients for their email address, but others do not, or don’t do it consistently, across various touch points.

This boggles my mind. What other major industry misses such an opportunity to open an electronic channel of communication with its customers?

According to the Pew Research Center, some 85% of Americans use the Internet*, and I would guess, most of these individuals have at least one (if not several) email addresses.

Of course the large freight train called “Meaningful Use” is lumbering down the track. So this will be an incentive for greater electronic communication between providers and patients, as providers must show that consumers are using portals to access their medical information, communicate with their doctors, and so forth.

Meanwhile, we encourage all healthcare organizations, including physician practices, to implement processes that will routinely allow patients/consumers to “opt in” and provide their email address.

In our recent “What’s Reasonable?” study, we found that 92% of our respondents had been to see a doctor in the last year, but only 23% of them said they received a patient satisfaction survey. This could be because mail surveying is expensive for a provider to do on a routine basis, considering the cost of the paper, printing, postage, data entry, and reporting. Organizations may not want that kind of expense to survey all their patients, even though the feedback is crucial to improving quality of care.

Online surveying is more convenient for both the organization AND the patients.  Based on our experience, online surveying offers a response rate similar to that of mail. Would you be more likely to take an experience survey if it were emailed to you rather than one that is snail mailed? Eight in ten (79%) of our study respondents said they would prefer to take an experience survey online rather than by phone or mail.

There are many benefits of online surveying, as evidenced in our white paper on this topic. Any organization, big or small, healthcare or non-healthcare, can benefit from the convenience and affordability of online surveying. And our surveys deploy to smart phones and tablets, as well as to desktop and laptop computers, so that consumers on the move can still provide valuable feedback.

To learn more about how patients feel about online surveying and using the Internet for their healthcare, download the results of our 2014 “What’s Reasonable?” study.

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