Use of technology to learn about healthcare rises in US despite confusion over health plan


Use of technology to learn about healthcare rises in US despite confusion over health plan


More Americans are using technology to improve access to health care and make more informed decisions, even as most have a limited understanding of basic health insurance terms or the cost of specific medical services, according to a study from UnitedHealthcare.

The survey titled, ‘UnitedHealthcare Consumer Sentiment Survey’, examines Americans’ attitude and opinions about four areas of healthcare: health literacy, wellness programs, customer service and consumer shopping.

The survey shows that most people don’t fully understand what kind of health care plan they are buying. Only 7 percent of respondents could successfully define all four basic health insurance concepts: plan premium, deductible, co-insurance and out-of-pocket maximum.

The survey found that people prefer other activities to enrolling in a health benefits plan during open enrollment. For example, 25 percent of respondents said they would rather file their annual income taxes than select a health plan.

Nevertheless, more Americans are now shopping for healthcare, according to the survey. Nearly a third of respondents have used the internet or mobile apps during the last year to compare the cost of medical services. That is more than double from 14 percent in 2012.

“This survey underscores why UnitedHealthcare is working to simplify the health care experience for people and help them take full advantage of their health care benefits,” said Rebecca Madsen, UnitedHealthcare chief consumer officer.

In spite of the survey’s data about U.S. consumers’ increased willingness to use technology to help improve health care knowledge and access, many Americans do not understand basic health insurance concepts that are important to using their health plan benefits.

Over 60 percent of respondents successfully defined plan premium and deductible; however, respondents had a more difficult time defining out-of-pocket maximum (36 percent) and co-insurance (32 percent).

Even in the internet age, nearly 80 percent of respondents said that they preferred speaking directly with a customer service representative, with email or online chat the next most popular channels at 7 percent each.

The most valued quality of customer service representative was the person’s knowledge (30 percent), followed by how quickly the call was answered (27 percent), and then feeling the representative had all the necessary information on hand (22 percent).

“Through the new Precision Medicine Alliance, use of genomics for diagnosis and treatments enables a new degree of precision for identifying the most effective treatment and/or clinical trial for each patient, as well as those treatments that would potentially be ineffective or harmful. Through the program we will partner with laboratories and data solution companies nationwide to promote new clinical trial development and molecular tests to meet specific patient needs."

The Precision Medicine Alliance will also integrate electronic medical records into a robust data-management infrastructure that will allow quick access to the right clinical expertise and clinical trial information. The two health systems will partner with laboratories and bioinformatics companies nationwide to develop molecular tests specific to meet the needs of patients and clinicians. By combining the data from highly sensitive diagnostic tests with an individual's medical history, healthcare providers will be able to develop individualized treatment and prevention plans.

Additionally, the Precision Medicine Alliance is aligned with the national Precision Medicine Initiative, which is a $215 million investment from the White House to accelerate biomedical research and provide clinicians with new tools to select the therapies that will work best in individual patients.

"Current treatment programs largely focus on the best course of treatment for the general population,” said Edward Abrahams, president of the Personalized Medicine Coalition.

“However, with recent advancements in science and technology, the ability of personalized medicine to improve health outcomes for individuals and reduce toxicity due to adverse drug responses is great. Partnerships such as the one between Dignity Health and CHI that will bring this targeted approach directly to the communities is thrilling and will have a significant impact on patient lives and improving overall community health."

UnitedHealthcare, US, Healthcare, Risk management, Insurance, Data analytics, Technology, IT, Survey