Weakening economy impacts patient choices about healthcare

A whopping 40% of patients said the state of the economy affects how often they seek medical care, according to a recent TransUnion Healthcare survey. Further, a quarter of people said they felt prompted to use their existing insurance for treatment they may have been putting off when they heard news about a worsening economy.

The findings underscore how patients are impacted by the high costs of healthcare and their ability to access care when they know costs loom. They also come at a time when recent news headlines in the U.S. have warned of a future economic recession. The connection between the economic news and healthcare sentiments from patients reveals how Americans are approaching healthcare more like consumers.

Younger generations are taking a very proactive approach and many are educating themselves on the financial aspects of their care prior to service. Patients are now experiencing larger out-of-pocket costs due to increased cost shifting in commercial and government plans so the onus is now on them to know what their financial responsibility is upfront,” added Wojczynski.

Some of the findings can help healthcare providers have better relationships with their patients when it comes to billing, but also ensure that medical bills are paid and be upfront with patients about cost. According to the survey, 62% of respondents said knowing the out-of-pocket costs upfront impacts their likelihood of pursuing care. Nearly half also said knowing their expected costs before receiving treatment impacts their decision to use a healthcare provider.

“Consumerism is here to stay in the healthcare industry. As more of the cost burden for medical care shifts to patients, people are paying attention to news about the economy and the impact it may have on their families,” Dave Wojczynski, president of TransUnion Healthcare, said in a statement. “Consequently, patients are conducting research to determine the prices of medical procedures prior to care. For healthcare providers, this means they need to offer both quality care and a positive patient financial experience.”

The survey, which queried more than 2,500 people in August 2019, also found 75% of patients utilize healthcare provider or payer/insurance websites to look at healthcare costs. Younger generations, including Gen Z and Millennials, also tended to conduct the most research into costs.

“Younger generations are taking a very proactive approach, and many are educating themselves on the financial aspects of their care prior to service. Patients are now experiencing larger out-of-pocket costs due to increased cost shifting in commercial and government plans, so the onus is now on them to know what their financial responsibility is upfront,” added Wojczynski.

It is beneficial for healthcare organizations to be more upfront about costs, too, because a clearer understanding of costs leads to more patient payments. More than two-thirds of patients (65%) said they’d be more willing to make at least a partial payment when given an estimate at the time of service.

“Patients who understand what they owe for a medical procedure are more likely to pay than those who either don’t receive an estimate or are confused by the bill they receive,” Jonathan Wiik, principal of healthcare strategy at TransUnion Healthcare, said in the survey.