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As consumers reject 'one size fits all' mindset, U.S. healthcare struggles to keep up

Press releases may be edited for formatting or style | September 27, 2022 Business Affairs
CHICAGO – Sept. 27, 2022 – From using fitness wearables, to embracing new forms of exercise, to increasingly seeking specialized mental health services, U.S. residents take an active role in managing their health, according to the 2022 State of the Healthcare Consumer Report from Kaufman Hall. But the role clinicians play in helping people get the most from these activities—and whether insurance covers the services—creates a highly variable consumer experience.

The report, which surveyed 3,500 consumers, found that 70% of people want health systems to be more actively involved with their own health management activities. Specifically, people want health systems to be more involved in supporting healthy eating (41%), paying for exercise equipment or programs (40%), or providing virtual physician-to-patient communications to discuss symptoms (39%).

Overall, 34% of respondents manage their diet and nutrition, 31% wear fitness trackers, 29% engage in physical health activities, 22% receive mental health services, 18% practice self-care activities, 12% use at-home diagnostics, and 12% use alternative therapies.

However, the health management activities that consumers frequently engage in are not always integrated into a medical visit. The report finds that while 59% of consumers that use mental health services do so at a provider's direction, only 43% of consumers that use a wearable device do so at the direction of a healthcare provider.

"As people adopt behaviors that make them more mindful of their health and wellbeing, they are increasingly interested in integrating those activities with their healthcare experience," said Dan Clarin, a managing director at Kaufman Hall and the report's lead author. "Unfortunately, the health management activities consumers engage in are often disconnected from their clinical care. By listening to their consumers and integrating their insights, health systems have an opportunity to better meet evolving consumer needs."

One complicating factor of tailoring healthcare to consumers, say report authors, is the narrowing of access to healthcare services. According to the report, nearly four in 10 people who receive health insurance through their employer have access to just one plan (38%) and 33% are offered two options. Fewer insurance choices mean fewer affordable options for consumers and clinicians to design the type of healthcare experience patients may want, with services covered by the plan.

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