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How Do Healthcare Consumers Define Value in Patient-Centered Care?

Patients and providers differ in what constitutes "value" in patient-centered care, according to a recent survey.

patient-centered care value

Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- Patients and providers don’t always see eye to eye in terms of what constitutes “value” in healthcare, leaving a gap in what providers can deliver to meet growing industry demands for patient-centered care, according to a recent report from the University of Utah Health.

The Value in Health Care Survey sought to define what value in healthcare truly means by surveying nearly 700 providers and over 5,000 patients. The results showed varying definitions for “value,” leading to different priorities throughout the healthcare spectrum.

“While few would disagree that high-quality, patient-centered care at an affordable cost is the desired outcome for our nation, progress toward achieving that goal has been slow,” the researchers wrote in the executive summary.

When there is no standard definition for value, industry stakeholders cannot hold themselves accountable.

“If we as a country agree that we can, and must, provide higher quality health care and a better patient experience at a lower cost, then—as a first step—all stakeholders need to understand how other groups define and prioritize these three aspects of health care,” the research team explained.

READ MORE: Should Value-Based Care Measures Become Patient-Centric?

The survey assessed viewpoints from patient, provider, and employers who pay for employee benefits to create a streamlined definition for value. The report drew one essential conclusion: providers and other stakeholders must be nimble in delivering value to healthcare consumers.

The survey broke value down into three essential parts: service (or patient satisfaction and experience), care quality, and cost.

Overall, both patients and providers ranked quality as the top element of “value,” with 62 percent of patients and 88 percent of providers reporting as such. Twenty-six percent of patients ranked cost as important and 12 percent ranked service as most important.

Seven percent of providers valued service and 5 percent valued cost.

The survey also asked patients to rank “value statements” that were most important to them, revealing a top three elements of value:

  • My out-of-pocket cost is affordable (45 percent)
  • I’m able to schedule a timely appointment (39 percent)
  • I’m confident in the provider’s expertise (38 percent)

READ MORE: Demonstrating Value Key to Consumer-Centered Healthcare

For providers, factors such as understanding the patient, having confidence in treatment protocol, and seeing wellness improvements were most important, reflecting the emphasis that providers put on care quality and its relationship to value.

Patients were the most variable group when defining value using value statements, the report said. Ninety percent of patients picked different combinations of value statements than providers, showing that no two patients are alike.

“That means that every day, physicians are seeing patients who individually have very different priorities from one another and from the physician’s definition of high-value care,” the research team noted.

Patients, providers, and employers all agreed that the US has the highest quality healthcare in the world, and all groups reported being satisfied with the care they received or delivered in the past year.

However, the three surveyed groups did report concerns about healthcare costs. Despite both patients and providers expressing satisfaction with their healthcare costs within the past year, they also agreed with employers in saying that healthcare prices are too high.

READ MORE: Using Patient-Reported Outcomes Measures to Improve Engagement

Patients in particular are concerned with cost, saying that they are unlikely to pay more for care that meets all of their “value” expectations. In some circumstances patients said they would pay “a little bit more” for high-value care:

  • When health improves (66 percent)
  • Mental health needs are considered in care (57 percent)
  • Get specific treatments they want (53 percent)
  • Confident in provider’s expertise (52 percent)

More detailed survey questions related to quality, service, and satisfaction revealed interesting findings about how patients define the two. Although only 12 percent of patients said service and satisfaction were most important in defining value, they routinely identified service-related characteristics as essential to a valuable experience.

This shows that delivering a positive patient experience is part and parcel of quality care.

Each stakeholder group held themselves at least somewhat accountable for improving patient health. Providers overwhelmingly said the onus was solely on them, while patients were split between themselves and providers bearing responsibility.

Employers likewise said patients and providers bore responsibility for patient wellness but also said they own some accountability.

These results emphasize the increasingly consumer-centric aspect of healthcare, the research team pointed out.

“The distributive nature of how patients perceive and prioritize aspects of value in health care suggests that consumers are behaving like they do in almost every other industry—as individuals with different views of what comprises value,” the researchers said.

It’s on the providers to meet those expectations, the researchers suggested. Adaptability is essential for meeting all patient needs and shifting toward a more consumer-centric model.

“Now stakeholders will need to work together to develop tools that give patients the opportunity to individually evaluate providers based on how they define high-value care,” the researchers concluded. “Those tools would allow patients to prioritize aspects of quality, service, and cost, and to choose a provider who will best meet their needs.”

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