Many U.S. consumers want overhaul of health care design, delivery

American consumers want more from their health care system than they're currently getting - greater online connection to health care providers and medical records, customized insurance coverage and wider access to emerging innovations such as retail clinics, a new survey from Deloitte reveals.

At the same time, they express anxiety about future health care costs - only 7 percent say they're adequately prepared financially - and increasingly search for alternative medicines and services that can save them money and offer convenience. But many also say they are willing to pay extra for wellness programs, and to support or consider tax increases to cover the uninsured.

The "2008 Survey of Health Care Consumers," a representative poll of more than 3,000 Americans between the ages of 18 and 75, was conducted by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions (www.deloitte.com/us/healthcareconsumersurvey). It was directed by Paul Keckley, executive director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, and William Copeland, Jr., national managing director of the Life Sciences and Health Care practice of Deloitte Consulting LLP.

"More than anything, the findings convince us that Americans no longer see themselves only as patients, but as consumers who want to take greater control of their health care," Keckley said. "Consumers will redefine our health care market, but how they do it is the most important strategic question the health care industry must answer."

Copeland said the survey's scope makes it one of the most thorough and comprehensive efforts to date to measure consumer attitudes, behaviors and unmet needs. "We believe these attitudes and consumer demands could have a transformative impact on the way health care services and products are developed," he said.

Among the survey's key findings: - 93 percent say they are not well prepared for future health care costs - 79 percent of consumers believe health care will be an important issue in the 2008 election; 46 percent described it as one of the top three issues affecting their vote - 34 percent say they would use a retail clinic; 16 percent already have - 60 percent want physicians to provide online access to medical records and test results, and online appointment scheduling; one in four say they would pay more for the service - 1 in 3 consumers say they want more holistic/alternative therapies in their treatment program - 3 of 4 consumers want expanded use of in-home monitoring devices, and online tools that would reduce need for visits and allow individuals to be more active in their care - 84 percent prefer generic drugs to name brands - 29 percent support a tax increase to help cover the uninsured; another 34 percent say they would consider a tax hike - 52 percent of consumers say they understand their insurance coverage; only 8 percent understand their policies completely - For additional findings, visit www.deloitte.com/us/consumerism/library

The way Americans think and behave in buying, managing and using their health care varies widely by gender, age group and cultural background, according to the survey. Women and men, for instance, have very different approaches to how they select and pay for their health care.

The Deloitte survey, however, found that consumer needs overall are basic -- better service, personalization, value - and that they want specific tools to customize the health services and insurance programs they use. Consumers are embracing innovation. Respondents said they wanted health plans to provide help with clinical decisions, not simply administrative services, and many want to customize their insurance with unique coverage and pricing features.

In addition, the survey revealed the consumer health care market is not homogenous; key distinctions exist within different groups. An analysis of the data found that the more than 3,000 respondents fell into six discrete segments, ranging from "content and compliant" consumers more accepting of the status quo to "out and about" health care shoppers who tend to be more independent and willing to try unconventional treatments.

Those factors taken together carry with them the potential for dramatic near-term change in the way U.S. doctors, hospitals, health plan administrators, drug makers and biotech companies operate, Keckley noted.

For general information on the survey, please contact Scott Ladd. For information on the Health Plans, Health Providers, and Life Sciences practices of Deloitte, please contact Marykate Reese.

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