More consumer are turning to mobile technology first to evaluate health conditions and a growing number are interested in using the internet to access medical care, says a new survey from health insurer UnitedHealth Group.
But many consumers also are barely literate when it comes to understanding the basics of health insurance. The August survey of 1,006 U.S. adults age 18 and older finds that 72% of consumers polled believe they are ready for the annual benefits enrollment process, which for many employees or consumers buying or renewing a healthcare policy on the public exchange market occurs from October through December.
But only 9% of respondents successfully defined all four basic health insurance concepts: plan premium, deductible, co-insurance and out-of-pocket maximum, up slightly from 7% a year ago, UnitedHealth says. “This survey highlights why UnitedHealth continues to develop new ways to simplify the healthcare experience and make it easier and more convenient for people to access care,” says chief consumer officer Rebecca Madsen.
The use of websites and mobile apps to research healthcare options is increasing, with 28% of respondents saying online resources are their first option when evaluating health symptoms or conditions. Among millennials (18 to 36 year olds), the internet or mobile apps were the first option for 36% of respondents, compared to 20% for Baby Boomers (53 to 71 year olds).
Nearly half (45%) of consumers say they turn first to a primary care physician or nurse to research health conditions or symptoms, the only choice that ranked higher than the internet and mobile apps, according to the survey.
About one-third of consumers have used the internet or mobile apps during the last year to compare the cost of medical services, says UnitedHealth. That’s more than double from 14% in 2012.
“Nearly half (44%) of millennials this year said they have used online or mobile resources to comparison shop for healthcare treatments or services,” the survey says. “Among all comparison shoppers, 80% described the process as “very helpful” or “somewhat helpful.”
Other findings from the UnitedHealth survey includes:
- A growing number (42%) of consumers say they would be likely to use telemedicine in the future to access care.
- When it comes to customer service, people prefer live support. 84% of consumers preferred speaking with a customer service representative, up from 78% in a similar study in 2016.
- Many consumers underestimate the actual cost of specific health services. Nearly two-thirds (63%) estimated the total cost of a knee replacement at between $5,000 and $25,000, which is lower than the national average of $36,000, says UnitedHealth.
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