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2017 Consumer Sentiment Survey Reveals Americans Turn to Technology to Evaluate/Access Health Care

November 7, 2017

According to a new UnitedHealthcare study1, a growing number of people are interested in using the internet to access medical care, while opportunities remain to improve their understanding of basic health insurance terms and the connection between lifestyle choices and health conditions.

Some of the outcomes from the second annual UnitedHealthcare Consumer Sentiment Survey, which examines Americans’ attitudes and opinions about multiple areas of health care, include technology trends, health literacy and customer service. The survey’s key findings include:

  • More Americans are turning to technology first to access health information and care. A growing number (42 percent) said they would be likely to use telemedicine in the future to access care – a 5 percentage point increase from 2016.
  • Most people underestimated the connection between lifestyle choices and disease. Many respondents underestimated the connection between modifiable lifestyle choice and chronic conditions, with just 23 percent of people correctly recognizing that 80 percent or more of premature chronic conditions are linked to controllable decisions such as smoking or poor diet.
  • Many people say they are prepared for open enrollment. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of people said they are prepared for open enrollment, while 22 percent said they are unprepared.
  • Understanding of basic insurance terms slightly improved. Just 9 percent of respondents successfully defined all four basic health insurance concepts: plan premium, deductible, co-insurance and out-of-pocket maximum. That’s a slight improvement from 7 percent a year ago.
  • When it comes to customer service, people prefer live support. Most people (84 percent) preferred speaking with a customer service representative, up from 78 percent last year.

Technology Becomes More Popular Way to Research Health Care
The use of websites and mobile apps to research health care options is increasing, with 28 percent of respondents saying online resources are their first option when evaluating health symptoms or conditions.

Nearly one-third of respondents (32 percent) have used the internet or mobile apps during the last year to compare the cost of medical services. That’s more than double from 14 percent in 2012 (according to a previous UnitedHealthcare study).

Even so, many people underestimated the actual cost of specific health services. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) estimated the total cost of a knee replacement between $5,000 and $25,000 – lower than the national average of $36,000, according to www.guroo.com.

Medicare Advantage and the Future of Medicare
Most Americans believe Medicare will evolve in the coming years, even though there is a high level of satisfaction among some beneficiaries. More than nine out of 10 respondents (92 percent) enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans said they are satisfied with their benefits.

Connection Between Lifestyle Choices and Health Conditions
Some Americans recognize the connection between lifestyle choices and chronic health conditions.

Nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of survey respondents correctly recognized that 80 percent or more of premature chronic conditions, such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes, are caused by modifiable lifestyle choices, such as risk factors like smoking or obesity, as opposed to being caused by genetic factors.

For complete survey results, click here. Contact your UnitedHealthcare representative with questions.

1The UnitedHealthcare Consumer Sentiment Survey was conducted using ORC International’s Telephone CARAVAN omnibus among a landline and cell phone probability sample of 1,006 U.S. adults age 18 and older. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. Supplemental interviewing, also among probability samples, was conducted over the period Aug. 10-27, 2017.