Survey calls into question the notion of consumer-driven care

A new study reveals that the fragmented nature of the U.S. health system forces patients to navigate medical care on their own and questions whether consumers truly drive healthcare changes.

The survey, conducted by Finn Partners, an independent public relations firm, polled 1,000 people across the country about healthcare. The findings reveals gaps in healthcare and that consumers must do most of the legwork for medical information.

Among the findings: consumers who change health insurance plans frequently also switch primary care physicians just as often. As a result, they must become the owners of their medical history and regimen, the survey found.

Although consumers consider primary care physicians the most trusted source for medical information, 46 percent said they only see their doctor once a year, when called or reminded to make an appointment or when they are ill. Survey authors say this lack of continuity may impact consumer health behavior and disease awareness. The number of Americans forgoing a doctor visit in favor of going to a facility has been on the rise for the past 15 years across demographics, despite the health benefits of primary care access, FiercePracticeManagement previously reported. 

Other highlights from the survey include

  • Slightly more than half of the Americans polled have had their current health insurance plan for fewer than three years. One in 10 consumers have had their current plan for less than a year.
  • Forty-five percent have kept the same primary care physicians for three or fewer years. Twelve percent have seen their current physician for less than a year.
  • Although primary care providers are the first choice for consumers' health information, almost half list a medical information website as their first (21 percent) or second (23 percent) choice. Walk-in clinics are also an option for 51 percent of consumers.
  • When prescribed a new medication, 30 percent of respondents said they ask their pharmacist about the drug. Furthermore, 43 percent of respondents said a pharmacist always or frequently recommends an alternative brand or medication to reduce out-of-pocket costs. Nearly half of respondents said they always or mostly accept their pharmacist's alternative recommendation for a medication prescribed by their physician.

"Despite the talk, the concept of consumer--in this case, the patient--as king has yet to be realized within the health community," Gil Bashe, managing partner at Finn Partners, said in the survey announcement. "Health professionals, payer, pharma industry and policy decision-makers have a responsibility to be better patient resources. Providing a clearer path for patients to navigate the system may improve outcomes and reduce costs--it's still a missing magic ingredient."

To learn more:
- read the survey announcement
- see the infographic