As we’ve noted previously, the latest Commonwealth Fund report ranks the U.S. healthcare system as both the most expense and least effective among Western nations. Despite this dubious honor, more than half of Americans expressed satisfaction with the healthcare system according to recent Gallup poll results.
The attitude signals a problem for an industry struggling to transform — and the patients it serves.
If Americans are satisfied with the current healthcare system, who will drive the changes needed to reverse the trend of high cost, low quality healthcare? More in-depth consumer market research may help to provide the answer.
Baseline Poll Explores Effects of Affordable Care Act
Since March 21, 2014, Gallup has been conducting a nightly poll to assess how changes to health care are impacting Americans. Without comparable data for previous years, this new undertaking serves as a baseline for future comparisons. Other than a short boost in satisfaction as the first insurance enrollment period ended, satisfaction ratings have hovered around 66 percent.
There are some wide variations among those polled.
- Lack of insurance increases dissatisfaction. Three in 10 Americans are dissatisfied, but that number jumps to six in 10 for uninsured respondents, comprising 13.4 percent of the population.
Older populations are more satisfied. Sixty-one to 66 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 to 49 are satisfied with the health care system. That figure jumps to 79 percent for Americans aged 65 and older.
Individuals with government-paid insurance are more satisfied. Like older Americans, most of whom are covered by Medicare, Americans who are covered by Medicaid, military or veterans insurance have higher percentages of satisfaction.
Political affiliations influence satisfaction. While the poll itself is politically neutral — the ACA is not mentioned — satisfaction ratings are not quite as impartial. The poll shows a 16 percent gap between the higher satisfaction ratings among Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents and lower satisfaction ratings among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.
On the other hand, the 2013 c2b Consumer Diagnostic found that consumers who self-identified as very conservative or very liberal were statistically more likely (95% confidence) than conservative, liberal, or “Middle of the Road” to be Extremely Satisfied with their health insurance coverage.
What Do These Results Mean for Health Care Reform?
The high cost and opportunities for healthcare improvement in America mandate change — despite the poll numbers. Ongoing consumer market research will be critical to healthcare organizations that want to navigate the transition successfully. Why? Here are three critical reasons revealed in the poll results:
- Health insurance coverage is a significant influencer in satisfaction. In the past, health insurers focused on Business-to-Business marketing. Now, as consumers begin to take advantage of health insurance acquired through the federal and state marketplaces, insurers need to shift their focus to Business-to-Consumer marketing. It will be especially critical to maintain high levels of satisfaction among consumers who are purchasing health insurance for the first time. Consumer insights and market research can help insurers identify consumer needs and communicate more effectively with individuals.
- Opinions about health care are also very personal. Gallup notes that satisfaction — or dissatisfaction — may reflect individual experiences. A patient who has a successful surgery and quick recovery, for example, is more likely to express satisfaction than one who does not. However, a poor customer service experience can undo the goodwill generated through excellent medical care. Hospitals, Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and other health care providers need to deliver quality care that generates positive patient experiences and health outcomes — or jeopardize reimbursements due to preventable readmissions and poor satisfaction scores. Understanding patient motivations can help providers better influence behaviors that can keep patients healthier and reduce the risk of penalties.
- Political affiliations influence satisfaction levels. The gap in satisfaction based on political leanings requires that organizations within the healthcare industry draft consumer communications that take into account the values and principles of their target audiences to ensure effectiveness. This does not mean that politics should find its way into healthcare communications… this means that personal beliefs can filter information and bias interpretation, and understanding these values is key to crafting communications that resonate with your audience.
As the American healthcare system continues to transform, inevitably the industry, and the consumers it serves, will experience growing pains that may influence future satisfaction ratings. Healthcare consumer market research can help organizations stay informed — and adapt their interactions with consumers — to ensure that satisfaction levels rise during this critical transition period for American health care.
c2b solutions conducts an annual national consumer market research study exploring many aspects of healthcare in the U.S. The 2013 study yielded 15.6 million data points covering a breadth and depth of consumer insights including:
Health & Wellness attitudes
Drivers of satisfaction & loyalty among health insurance companies
The roles of various healthcare professionals
Retail clinic utilization
Prescription and OTC medicine purchase and utilization, including vitamins/minerals/supplement
Attitudes regarding healthcare reform/ACA
Plus many more topics
Please contact c2b solutions if you would like to learn more about these insights to drive patient satisfaction for your organization.