New Research: 2017 Consumer Survey of US Healthcare


Our research uncovers what US consumers want from their healthcare experience. It turns out some consumers are more than happy to "buy up" for health offerings that meet their unique needs.

Sam Glick and John Rudoy, PhD

9 min read

There are 320 million people in the United States. We are young, old, well, sick, and everything in between. And when it comes to healthcare, we have different needs, worries, and expectations.

A new survey by Oliver Wyman and FORTUNE Knowledge Group examined consumers’ healthcare attitudes and found key differences between consumer segments. The survey, conducted online in late-2016, is one of the largest of its kind and explores health consumers’ views of cost, quality, and new products and offerings. The results provide a nuanced view into consumers’ concerns and preferences, and are especially important given today's climate of change.

Identifying and tracking these differences will affect everything in healthcare – from how insurers structure their plan offerings, to employers’ responsibilities toward workers, to how, when, and where providers deliver care. In particular, understanding the expectations and attitudes of key segments of the market (such as younger individuals, baby boomers, family caregivers, and people with chronic diseases) is important if the healthcare system is to meet the needs of these millions of Americans today and in the coming years.

You can read the full report here. Or watch this short video summarizing the report findings. Or view the infographic.

Below, Oliver Wyman's Sam Glick, partner in the Health & Life Sciences practice, and John Rudoy, principal with the practice, provide a summary of key take-aways.

What we learned

What people want and what they’re willing to pay for varies significantly by generation, health status, and family status. The days of viewing healthcare holistically are over. Healthcare companies that adopt a universal consumer strategy will face challenges and frustrations because there is no single strategy that will meet these varied desires and needs. Consider:

Millennials want it all
The survey found that millennials are the age group most open to new healthcare offers—nearly half have a high degree of interest in new products and services. Like everything in this Amazon-powered world, they see healthcare as a shoppable service.

Millennials are more willing to interact through new channels and technologies than older generations; but it’s not only digital bells and whistles they want. Of the top six services that millennials say they are interested in, three have to do with in-person advice and social support—not technology. And millennials are three times more likely than boomers to want consultation with patient advocates.

These younger adults also are more likely to express access-related concerns. For example,13 percent of millennials say that restrictive networks are a top concern, while just 9 percent of boomers and older cite that as a top concern.

Millennials who struggle with chronic diseases are the most willing to pay for innovative healthcare services. Over the coming years, as these young adults move toward middle age, we can expect that more of them will inherit the burdens of diabetes, high blood pressure, and other lifestyle diseases. As a result, another 74 million individuals will be drawn to—and willing to pay for—healthcare services that meet their unique needs.

Boomers are wary of new offers, but also worried
Boomers are the age group least interested in new offers. The survey indicates that boomers are reluctant to accept new methods of care and interaction, but they also have very real concerns about the future. Boomers express more anxiety about increasing costs than other generations. They also are less optimistic that their care will get better over the next five years—just 21 percent of boomers think their care will get better over the next five years compared with 44 percent of millennials. This may be due to the fact that their primary health concerns are progressive issues (worsening chronic conditions or lessening strength and mobility) and their health is more likely to deteriorate in the coming years.

Healthcare organizations should not underestimate boomers’ ability to become comfortable with and adapt new technology and methods of interacting with the healthcare system. (It took them a few years, but about three-quarters of boomer internet users now use Facebook.) Organizations that address boomers’ specific concerns around maintaining their health and independence will have greater success with new solutions—even if those solutions are not on boomers’ current want/need list.

Caregivers need a hand
People in the survey who say they are responsible for the care of someone else are far more likely to be interested in extra healthcare services than those who are not caregivers. For example, 29 percent of caregivers say they would (or might) be willing to pay for access to an independent consultant to help with medications, compared with 12 percent of non-caregivers. Caregivers also are about twice as likely as other respondents to be interested in paying for access to medical professionals via a 24-hour help line or from a home computer. This indicates which types of additional services will be most in demand as more health consumers take on caregiving responsibilities.

There are an estimated 43 million family caregivers in the United States, 34 million of whom care for an aging adult. Caregivers face increased health risks and stress. In fact, caregiving takes such an extreme toll on caregivers’ physical and emotional health that is has been referred to as a public health crisis. With the number of caregivers on the rise, meeting the health needs of this consumer segment will is becoming increasingly important.

Your move, healthcare

The survey results showed us that success today depends upon personalization, seeing the complexity of the consumer market, and adopting a multi-faceted consumer’s point of view—one that can be executed through a number of different strategies.

Organizations that generalize consumers’ preferences today risk becoming the Blockbuster of healthcare. Because while healthcare is an undeniably unique and complex industry, it is still a consumer-focused one; and no two consumers are exactly the same.

Consumers have told us what they want and need; it's your move, healthcare.