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Patients Say Healthcare Costs Rising, Care Quality Stays Stagnant

Only 20 percent of patients said they are healthier than they were last year, highlighting a gap in healthcare costs and care quality.

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Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- You get what you pay for, the saying goes. But in healthcare, patients say healthcare costs are rising with little payoff for improved care quality, according to a recent survey conducted by Kelton Global on behalf of West Healthcare.

The survey revealed that 85 percent of patients and providers don’t think patients are getting better quality of care, despite patients bearing a greater financial responsibility. An increased focus on patient engagement, prevention, and overall patient wellness could close that care quality gap.

Nearly all (96 percent) of the 1,000 patients surveyed think there are issues with healthcare across the country. Thirty-seven percent of those patients stated that care quality was one of the biggest issues, and 42 percent of surveyed providers agreed.

The proof is the in the pudding, the survey authors suggested. Only 20 percent of patients reported that their health has improved over the past year, even though patients said they were paying more.

“Only 20 percent of patients believe that their health improved during the previous 12 months,” West Chief Marketing Research and Insights Strategist Allison Hart said in a statement. “When we asked patients about their perceptions of healthcare in America, the responses revealed that patients are twice as likely to feel frustrated compared to optimistic about healthcare. Providers and patients agree that quality is a top concern when it comes to healthcare.”

These healthcare issues are leaving patients with a poor outlook on the industry as a whole, the survey administrators found. Forty-three percent of patients said they are frustrated with the healthcare industry, 38 percent said they are disappointed, and 29 percent said they are stressed about their current healthcare issues.

Only 20 percent of patients said they are optimistic about the future of the healthcare industry, and only 13 percent said they are happy with the current state of healthcare.

Providers are likewise feeling negative effects of healthcare’s pitfalls. Ninety-six percent of providers said they are frustrated because their patients are not adequately adhering to patient care management plans. This lack of adherence may stem from the poor outlook many patients have related to the healthcare industry.

Likewise, increasing costs with little perceived clinical benefit may discourage patients from participating more in their care.

The task of improving healthcare quality lies with the provider, patients reported. Eighty-three percent of patients said quality care is defined as proactive care. These patients said they expect their providers to spearhead their wellness plans.

Eighty percent of patients would attend a preventive screening if their providers scheduled the screening, for example. Accessing healthcare can be challenging, but having a provider who schedules preventive appointments and ensures patient attendance makes it easier for patients to stay motivated, the survey suggested.

Patients face many other hurdles to accessing their healthcare, ranging from cost to limited patient education on preventive care.

Thirty-one percent of patients said they don’t think they can afford preventive healthcare, the report showed. Twenty-eight percent of patients said they don’t know what preventive services are recommended for them, 29 percent said they don’t know how often they should undergo routine tests, and 24 percent said they don’t know when they are due for a preventive screening.

Having a provider more proactively educate patients about preventive care or schedule screening appointments will help patients better engage with the healthcare industry, the survey administrators suggested.

“Being more proactive is key for both patients and providers in advancing care quality and generating better health outcomes,” the report authors wrote in the executive summary. “Increasing communications about preventive care and improving wellness among chronic populations leads to greater patient engagement, and ultimately helps both patients and providers improve the quality of healthcare in America.”

Healthcare professionals can leverage better patient-provider communication to close these care gaps and improve the quality of healthcare received. Patient portals and other messaging tools let providers remind patients about key preventive care screenings. Digital alerts prompt patients to schedule appointments, and from there technologies can alert patients when a clinic visit is upcoming.

High patient financial responsibility is likely not going away, as cost sharing strategies continue to take hold in healthcare payer plans. However, providers and patients alike can work together to close care gaps and become more proactive in healthcare, ideally leading to better quality care that is worth the patient’s dollar.

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