The US Healthcare Divide

Oct 31, 2018

Oliver Wyman Report Shows Gap Between What Consumers Want and What System Offers

Oliver Wyman today announced results from its 2018 consumer survey of US healthcare titled “Waiting for Consumers.” The report includes insight on whether the proliferation of new companies, technologies, and services are what consumers want.

“Consumers have more healthcare options than ever, but uptake isn’t always what we’d expect, or what investors project,” said Sam Glick, a Partner in Oliver Wyman’s Health & Life Sciences practice. “Our new research sheds light on what consumers truly want out of the healthcare system – and what personal data they’re willing to share to get it.”

The report examines consumer use of retail health clinics, high deductible plans, and whether consumers trust healthcare companies.

Retail Clinics – Try It, You’ll Like It

Regardless of age, consumers who have used retail health clinics, like them. The survey found more than one-third of the individuals who had used a retail clinic in the past year said the experience was better than a traditional doctor’s office. Only 16 percent thought it was worse.

This is true across all generations — even for baby boomers. Caregivers across all demographics were especially positive about retail clinics; with more than 40 percent saying they preferred a retail clinic experience to a standard office visit.

Still only a modest number of consumers reported using alternative forms of healthcare delivery. Over the past year only 8 percent said they have used a retail clinic, while only 10 percent have used telehealth to interact remotely with a doctor. These numbers remain virtually unchanged since Oliver Wyman asked in 2017 and are vastly lower than the 71 percent surveyed who saw a primary care physician.

“We’ve found consumers from younger generations are using the new front door more often than those from older generations,” said John Rudoy, Principal at Oliver Wyman and a co-author of the report. “To get more consumers to use the new front door, we need to better pinpoint what consumers across a broad range of segments want from these new channels.”

High Deductible Plans

Out-of-pocket costs have risen 230 percent over the past decade and high-deductible health plans (HDHP) will again be the predominant option for consumers. But consumers do not want them.

Half of consumers surveyed said they preferred a plan that costs more upfront but guarantees low out-of-pocket medical costs through the year. Only 21 percent preferred a plan that costs less upfront but could result in high out-of-pocket expenditures throughout the year.

Despite not wanting HDHPs, more than 40 percent of consumers buy them according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“There is a huge divide when it comes to HDHPs although the exact reason is unclear,” said Rudoy. “For many individuals with employer-based insurance, they might be the only option. Those who do have options, may still be driven to HDHPs by the prohibitively high cost of traditional insurance. Or consumers may just not be clear on what they are purchasing until they are locked into a plan. Regardless of the reason, today’s insurance products are out of sync with consumer wishes.” 

What Consumers Actually Want

As enrollment season approaches, what would it take to delight consumers? What do they most want from their health plan and those that deliver the care?

It’s not what you’d think. According to the survey, consumers would rather have help managing their diet and stress (more than 40 percent) than a lower bill (35 percent). The survey identifies the most pressing wants and needs of today’s consumer and paints a picture of what the health plan and hospital of the future should really provide.

It’s a Matter of Trust

Consumers trust their doctors, with 42 percent saying they trust their opinion without question. As more tech companies enter the healthcare space with various monitoring and wearable technology, almost half of consumers would still rather have a doctor monitor this kind of healthcare technology as opposed to a mobile app or social network provider.

At the same time, the survey showed an unexpectedly high willingness to share personal information, if what was provided in return was considered valuable.

“There’s a fine line between what consumers consider trustworthy and what they can learn to trust over time,” said Glick. “Health services must not only focus on improving consumers’ costs and ease of care delivery, but also on making the consumer benefits attractive to begin with.”

About the Survey

The online questionnaire was fielded in the United States in July 2018, gathering 2,509 responses. The people polled all have insurance coverage, ranging from government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid to those who are insured individually or are insured through an employer or union.  The survey included a cross-section by age and income and family dynamics. Caregivers and consumers with chronic health conditions that require regular treatment were also surveyed.

About Oliver Wyman

Oliver Wyman is a global leader in management consulting. With offices in 50+ cities across nearly 30 countries, Oliver Wyman combines deep industry knowledge with specialized expertise in strategy, operations, risk management, and organization transformation. The firm has more than 5,000 professionals around the world who work with clients to optimize their business, improve their operations and risk profile, and accelerate their organizational performance to seize the most attractive opportunities. Oliver Wyman is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies [NYSE: MMC]. For more information, visit Follow Oliver Wyman on Twitter @OliverWyman.