More consumers look to use tech in their healthcare journey

More Americans are seeking technology as part of their healthcare experience, according to UnitedHealthcare’s annual survey of consumer sentiment.

The survey of 1,008 adults was conducted for United by Engine Insights by phone and supplemental interviews last August, and found that 75 percent of respondents are prepared for this year’s open enrollment season, which runs from November 1 to December.

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UnitedHealth Group Inc. headquarters stands in Minnetonka, Minnesota, U.S., on Wednesday, March 9, 2016. Photographer: Mike Bradley

Some 37 percent of those surveyed in this year’s survey have used the internet or mobile apps to comparison shop for care, up from 14 percent in 2012, according to other United sources.

Millennials (50 percent) were the most likely to use comparison-shopping resources. Among all comparison shoppers, 80 percent described the process as “very helpful” or “somewhat helpful,” including 39 percent saying the shopping process prompted them to change their healthcare provider, facility, or both.

“Technology continues to reshape nearly every aspect of life, including how people research and access healthcare,” says Rebecca Madsen, chief consumer officer of UnitedHealthcare. “This survey suggests Americans are increasingly embracing technology as an important resource to improve their health and more effectively navigate the health system, while highlighting the need for further investment in new resources to help enhance the care experience and provide more effective, evidence-based clinical interventions.”

Technology preferences ranged from nearly half of those surveyed saying they are interested in their doctor using artificial intelligence to make care decisions, to 39 percent saying they would likely use telemedicine in the future to access care. The interest in telehealth is up two percentage points from 2016, the survey found.

Among those interested in their doctor using AI, 46 percent were motivated by the potential for a more accurate diagnosis; 31 percent cited the potential to reduce human error; and 15 percent hoped for faster treatment decisions. For respondents uninterested in artificial intelligence, they cited a preference for the expertise of a trained healthcare professional (47 percent) and a lack of trust in the technology (24 percent).

Survey respondents said they still need more access to cost information to comparison shop for prescription medications. Among people taking prescriptions, a majority (64 percent) said they never know the cost of the medications before leaving the doctor’s office; 21 percent said they sometimes know this information; and only 11 percent said they always know the price.

United’s survey included questions about resolving issues with health plans, discovering that two-thirds (66 percent) of respondents prefer speaking directly with a customer service representative, while 10 percent want a self-service option through an app or online.

When patients want information about illnesses, nearly half of the respondents (46 percent) prefer to turn to their doctors, while 20 percent check the internet or refer to a mobile app.

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