The Cost-Estimate Tools Consumers Want Most

September 20, 2018
Tracey Walker
Tracey Walker

A new HealthMine survey of Medicare beneficiaries has surprising results about this population’s digital health literacy.

Information empowerment-especially cost information-is a key driver of individuals taking the right actions in managing their own health.

Yet, a HealthMine survey of 781 Medicare plan beneficiaries ages 65 and older with a chronic condition who are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage and/or Supplemental plan, found that 69% said that their health plan does not offer digital tools to predict/estimate the cost of upcoming health services or procedures.

However, 25% of respondents noted that they were offered digital tools to predict drug costs; 17% said they were available to predict the cost of a healthcare service such as a procedure, imaging, test, or surgery; and 15% responded that digital were available for a provider visit.

Besides predicting costs before a health service or procedure, 45% of respondents want more communication from their health plan about how to lower healthcare costs, and 40% seek more information about fees after receiving medical services. Just 11% of survey participants said they received information on how to lower personal healthcare costs.

“Healthcare costs are of concern to many Medicare beneficiaries,” says Bryce Williams, president and CEO of HealthMine. “As a result, they would like their health plan to help them better understand the cost of a healthcare service before using it. Informed members are better equipped to make value-based health choices. Before a member uses a service, understanding cost can lead them to lower-priced, equally effective services-for example using telemedicine as opposed to going to a doctor’s office for a common cold. Plus, knowledge can help alleviate overutilization of health services by some beneficiaries, an issue for many Medicare Advantage plans. The bottom line is that given the right tools, we believe Medicare plan members take the right actions in managing their health.”

Related: Three Things You Might Not Know About Medicare Coverage
 
In addition, individuals, even those in Medicare plans, are connected digitally. The use of the Internet by those over 65 according to Pew Research is 67%, and 82% for those who are between ages 65 and 69 years. As baby boomers age into Medicare at the rate of 10,000 per day, connecting these seniors to their health information with digital tools is a growing need, according to Williams.

Here are four things Williams thinks healthcare executives should keep in mind about digital tools:

1. Patients want digital tools. “Many Medicare beneficiaries are connected to their health and their doctor virtually with heart rate monitors, blood pressure monitoring, and more,” Williams says. The survey showed that 77% of patients currently use a smart device (iPad, smartphone); 99% said they have easy and regular access to the Internet.

2. Digital tools are becoming expected by patients. “And, if health plans put digital tools in peoples’ hands, it makes them better informed consumers of healthcare services creating meaningful interactions with their provider,” Williams says

3. Medicare beneficiaries are by and large digitally literate. “By virtue of the survey being conducted online, it was concluded that all respondents had proficient digital health literacy,” Williams says.

4. Those in healthcare should connect digitally with an individual’s digital comfort level. “Some may have a heart rate monitor, others a Fitbit, other just a computer.  Medicare beneficiaries want to be connected to their health,” Williams says.