Live from AHIP: Survey Results Shine Light on Opportunity

Les Masterson, for HealthLeaders Media , June 20, 2008

Not only are most Americans not prepared financially for their future healthcare needs, but nine out of 10 are not completely satisfied with their health plans. That serves as a one-two punch as health plans attempt to put consumers in more control of their care.

Those sobering statistics were released on Thursday by The Deloitte Center for Health Solutions as part of its 2008 Survey of Health Care Consumers. The survey questioned more than 3,000 Americans about their thoughts on a variety of health issues.

According to The Deloitte Center, a Washington, DC-based group that researches and develops healthcare solutions, Americans don't think that payers are meeting their needs.

"The tools that [consumers] want to navigate care and cost are not currently available," Paul Keckley, PhD, executive director of The Deloitte Center for Health Solutions told me at the America's Health Insurance Plans conference in San Francisco Thursday.

The Deloitte study also offered some potential solutions to Americans' dissatisfaction with their health plans, which could create a culture of greater education for healthcare consumers.

According to Deloitte:

  • 73% of consumers are interested in accessing information about quality or price from their health plans.
  • 78% of consumers would rather customize their insurance by selecting the benefits and features they value, rather than choose their plans from a few pre-packaged options.
  • 78% say they are interested in online access to medical records and test results; 76% want e-mail communication with doctors; and 72% support online office visit scheduling.
  • 46% would like a software program or Web site to create a personal health record.

Tommy Thompson, senior advisor at Deloitte, says dissatisfaction with health plans should serve as a wake-up call for health insurers. Thompson, former secretary of health and human services in the Bush Administration and former governor of Wisconsin, says healthcare consumers are demanding more quality and transparency information. Some health insurers are exploring different platforms and plans, but there hasn't been enough investment in promoting consumer awareness or recognizing the power of consumer involvement, says Thompson, who ran for the 2008 Republican nomination for president.

"If I'm a health insurance plan and I want to be visionary, I need to take consumer involvement very seriously," Thompson told me Thursday.

Thompson says health plans should not wait around for government to intervene. Healthcare already costs $3.2 trillion and comprises 16% of the gross national product. It's up to innovative companies to develop ways to provide quality, cost-effective care, he says.

Les Masterson is senior editor for Health Plan Insider. He is blogging this week from America's Health Insurance Plans conference in San Francisco.

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