LYNDHURST, N.J. — The majority of Americans are not fully satisfied with their doctor-patient relationship, and many lack the tools to evaluate their options and make better care decisions, according to the results of a recent Vitals Index survey.
When choosing a doctor, Americans say that cost matters greatly. In fact, the No. 1 determining factor for selecting a doctor is whether the physician is in-network. It’s nearly twice as important as other top factors cited, including location (37%), bedside manner (34%), education/credentials (30%) and availability and office hours (25%).
But despite an emphasis on keeping out-of-pocket costs low, most patients aren’t minimizing costs they could face from deductibles. The survey found the majority of people don’t ask about cost prior to an appointment, lab test, health screening or lab image, like an X-ray or MRI. However, 48% of survey respondents do ask about the cost of their prescriptions. In addition, nearly 50% don’t know if their doctor can answer their questions about the cost of medical care, meaning they likely aren’t having the conversation in the first place.
When determining better value care, cost is only one side of the equation. Consumers also need to evaluate doctors on quality. Yet, the search for doctor information online remains a challenge. Two-thirds of respondents rate finding information online as somewhat difficult to very difficult.
The result: 70% of people are not fully satisfied with their doctor-patient relationship. Nearly 54% describe their relationship as “good enough for the moment.” Another 15% said they weren’t “into him/her” or have a “cold and emotionless” relationship with their doctor.
However, choice in the marketplace is becoming more evident. Half of the survey respondents used such alternative medical facilities as urgent care centers, retail clinics or surgical centers. More than half cited convenience as the reason, whether it was closer to their home, open on weekends or had walk-in availability. One-in-10 said they chose an alternative care center on the basis of cost.
“The good news is that consumers have more places to turn when it comes to receiving care,” said Mitch Rothschild, CEO of Vitals. “But just like you wouldn’t give a new driver a car without learning how to operate it, consumers also need more help figuring out how to get value — and ultimately satisfaction — from their health care.”
The survey was conducted by a third-party on behalf of Vitals in January. It polled more than 800 American adults online, ages 18 years and older.