Most Americans support value-based care but prefer other terms, research finds

Most Americans support the idea of value-based care but don’t understand or resonate with the term, according to new research from United States of Care. 

USofCare is a self-described nonpartisan think tank focused on building a more equitable healthcare system. Its latest research relied on (PDF) virtual focus groups with a dozen participants, a national survey that reached 1,000 respondents and a “ReMesh” session, or an AI-driven feedback collection platform that engaged 100 participants more deeply.

It found that people desire targeted improvements to their care experience and believe the healthcare system is too fragmented with little coordination between providers. They also think too much time is spent waiting versus seeing their doctors, and they worry that people with money are prioritized in getting appointments and the care they desire. 

People responded best to a system that prioritizes the patient experience over quantity—and they want a care experience where the provider genuinely cares about them as a whole person rather than a collection of symptoms, the research found.

In total, 64% of people in the national survey supported value-based care over the fee-for-service model. This was even higher among the more select few ReMesh participants, at 89%. High levels of support were maintained across party identification, ethnicity, age, education and geography. 

Fifty-nine percent of national survey respondents said they supported the term "value-based care." Yet survey found that even more respondents resonated with terms other than value-based care, including “quality-focused care” and “patient-first care.” In the ReMesh group, three-quarters of participants agreed that they associated “value-based care” with cheap, low-quality services.

“Long-term success for implementing a patient-first care approach requires us to find ways to bridge the communication gap between experts and the real world,” USofCare co-founder and CEO Natalie Davis said in a press release. “We encourage policymakers, healthcare providers, advocates and stakeholders at all levels to consider the insights from this research and collaborate towards building a more people-focused and personalized health care system through by focusing on quality over quantity.”

Some respondents were skeptical about how value-based care could work in practice. Nearly half in the survey were worried it could cost more if docs saw fewer patients, and more than half of ReMesh participants worried providers might ignore certain problems in favor of less complex ones. More than half of ReMesh participants were also worried about the wait times since docs would be spending more time with patients.

In its recommendations based on the research, USofCare suggested it’s important to simplify messaging around value-based care and stay focused on how the approach will improve people’s care experiences.

Reframing value-based care as patient-first care is one way to emphasize the benefits of the model, the group said.

“Our research found that people love the promise of value-based care. They love the prospect of spending more time with their doctors, providers communicating with each other directly, and patients being treated as a whole person, instead of a collection of symptoms,” Davis said in the announcement. “However, we’re not talking about this vision effectively: no one understands what ‘value-based care’ is, and the term can make you think of cheaper and lesser quality services.”