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Patient Privacy, Data Security Top Cost for Healthcare Consumers

Consumers ranked patient privacy and data security above cost of care as the most important concerns they have about healthcare, according to a recent survey of 1,000 consumers by health insurance company Aetna.

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Source: Thinkstock

By Fred Donovan

- Consumers ranked patient privacy and data security above cost of care as the most important concerns they have about healthcare, according to a recent survey of 1,000 consumers by health insurance company Aetna.

Around 80 percent of consumers view patient privacy as a very important aspect of healthcare, and 76 percent have the same view of data security.

By gender, 84 percent of women identified privacy as a top concern, while 71 percent of men identified it as a priority. In terms of data security, only 66 percent of men said that it was very important, while 80 percent of women said it was very important.

Seventy-three percent of consumers said that cost of care is a very important aspect of healthcare, 71 percent said the same about personalized care, and 68 percent said coordination of care among healthcare providers is very important.

If given an extra hour in a day, 60 percent of consumers said they would spend it on mental and physical well-being activities.

More than three-quarters of consumers said it is important that their primary care physician be familiar with their mental health history and their ability to deal with stress.

Half of women said they are very likely to take their doctors’ recommendations, compared to 61 percent of men.

Fewer women believe that their doctors understand their health needs. Seventy percent of women said their doctors are aware of their lifestyle habits, compared to 81 percent of men.

More than three-quarters of men said their doctor is familiar with their health goals, compared to 65 percent of women.

Around 46 percent of women said that weekend office hours would be helpful to improve communication with their doctor, 38 percent said later office hours, and 23 percent said care coordinators would improve communication.

“Women are often the primary caregiver for their families,” said Aetna President Karen Lynch.

“So, when it comes to health and lifestyle goals, women need more support to feel confident in their health decisions for themselves and others.”

Survey respondents said it is very important that their doctors talk in a way they can easily understand (77%), have office appointments when they need them (66%), and offer access to other healthcare professionals to coordinate care (59%).

Younger consumers are using digital tools more than older consumers to improve communication with their doctor.

Thirty-seven percent of consumers under the age of 35 said digital messaging would be valuable for them, 35 percent of that age group said virtual office visits would be helpful, and 36 percent said telehealth would be valuable.

This compared to 32 percent of people aged 65 and older who said digital messaging would be valuable, 17 percent of that age group who said virtual office visits would be a good idea, and only 14 percent viewed telehealth as helpful.

The study also examined the health needs of the generation who manage the health needs of both their children and their parents. Encouragingly, 85 percent of respondents in that generation said their doctors spend enough time answering questions, 84 percent said their doctors offer access to other healthcare professionals, and three-quarters said their doctors have office appointments when needed.

Aetna also surveyed 400 physicians and found that over half of physicians said that mental health counselors are important for their patients, 41 percent said substance abuse counselors are important, 37 percent said nutritionist are important, 35 percent said social workers are important, and 32 percent said in-home aids and liaisons are important.

The survey found that providers in value-based care models have greater access to community resources than providers who are not involved in value-based care models. For example, 61 percent of those in value-based care models said they have very good or good access to nutritionists, compared to just 46 percent of physicians not in value-based care models.

Of physicians who had a favorable view of value-based care, 36 percent said that value-based care will improve quality of care, 28 percent said it will improve patient involvement, 26 percent said it will help improve overall focus, and 19 percent said it will improve provider involvement.

“People clearly need to feel supported in their health care journeys and engaged and empowered to make their own health decisions,” concluded Lynch.

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