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Americans Using Tech to Tackle Their Health and the Health System

Today, during National HIT Week, The Deloitte Center for Health Solutions is releasing a survey report showing that Americans are increasing their use of technology to improve their health, navigate the health system and flex their shopping muscles in acting like consumers instead of passive patients.

The report, "Health Care Consumer Engagement: No One-Size-Fits-All Approach," found that 22% of respondents used technology to access, store, and transmit health records in the last year, up from 13% in 2013. Use was higher for those with major chronic conditions: 32% compared with 19% in 2013.

The report also shows that 16% of respondents who needed care went online for cost information, up from 11% in 2013. Millennials in this group increased the most, 27% vs 17%. Further, 71% of all those surveyed said they have not gone online for cost information but are "very" or "somewhat" likely to use a pricing tool in the future.

When it comes to judging quality, 25% of all respondents used a scorecard to compare the performance of doctors, hospitals, and/or health plans, up from 19% in 2013. The rate was highest in the youngest cohort, with 49% of millennials who received care in the last year using a scorecard compared with 31% in 2013.

"Health care is becoming more digitized and consumer oriented," says Greg Scott, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP, and vice chairman and national sector leader for the health plans practice. "It's not an overnight change, but more like how summer turns into fall—gradual yet very perceptible."

The specter of a more customer-driven industry is causing many health companies to transform into retail-focused organizations, says Scott, impacting everything from strategy and scale to operations and human capital. "For the enterprise, this is about more than a cool app—this is about making the end-to-end changes needed to better identify and engage a more empowered purchaser."

The report identifies six consumer types emerging in today's market and quantifies their size—a framework that can help companies pursue customer-segmentation strategies. The "casual and cautious" make up 34% of the surveyed market, followed by the "content and compliant" at 22%, the "online and onboard" at 19%, "sick and savvy" at 11%, "out and about" at 8%, and "shop and save" at 6%. The report gives depth on each segment's approach to health care.

"Not all consumers are alike in how they engage the system, and a large segment still remains disengaged," says Harry Greenspun, MD, Deloitte Services LP, director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. "Companies likely won't take a one-size-fits-all approach in their marketing and operations, but a tailored strategy that considers the unique characteristics of the segments they are most interested in."

Respondents most trust physician groups/medical practices/doctor's offices as a reliable source of information on treatments, with 49% giving this category a high rating. However, the scores for health insurance and life sciences companies have doubled since 2010. Specifically, 21% gave health plans a high rating, compared with 10% in 2010, while 18% gave life sciences companies a high rating, compared with 9% in 2010.

"It's not just the hospitals and doctors who are striving to get closer to the patient—it's the entire industry," says Sarah Thomas, Deloitte Services LP, director of research at the center. "The post-ACA rise of the individual market and the need for health organizations to demonstrate value are putting the patient at the center of the health ecosystem."

Other findings include the following:

Source: Deloitte