By the Numbers: How Health Consumers Weigh Cost and Quality

10.11.16

Cost. Quality. Access. These three words represent one of the highest priorities for patients, payors and providers: ensuring that high-quality care is available at an affordable cost.

To better understand how the cost-quality-access dilemma affects how consumers make decisions about their health care, we conducted a public opinion poll in September 2016 with 2,000 registered voters. Here are a few of the insights we gained from their responses.

Cost is an Important Influence in Consumer Health Care Decision-making

Our poll revealed that consumers are heavily focused on cost when choosing how to receive health care. For example, in the past month:

  • 28 percent of respondents put off needed medical care because of affordability concerns

  • 21 percent put off filling a prescription because of affordability concerns

Quality is the Top Factor When Consumers Assess and Seek Health Care

Although the poll showed how important cost is when making health care decisions, we learned that quality is most important to consumers, many of whom rely on their own research to guide their choices:

  • 29 percent shop around for health care providers and services "Always" or "Sometimes.” Of this group, 67 percent regularly or sometimes select care based on their research.

  • When seeking a health care provider, 52 percent say quality of care is the most important factor in considering whom to see, followed by trusted advice (17 percent).

It Doesn’t Have to Be Cost vs. Quality

Fortunately, consumers don’t have to sacrifice cost for quality, or quality for cost. Health care providers can play an important role in making sure patients don’t have to choose between the two.

Retail clinics, such as MinuteClinic, offer convenient access to expert care from nurse practitioners and physician assistants beyond regular physician office hours. Care from retail clinics can also be significantly more affordable than other care alternatives, such as the emergency room. Our goal is for half of all Americans to live within 10 miles of a MinuteClinic, which has had 30 million patient visits in 1,100 clinics with a 95 percent customer satisfaction rating.

Consumers in remote areas, or those faced with mobility challenges may also opt for high-quality, cost-effective care through telehealth programs. As the U.S. population continues to embrace online and mobile platforms, we are investing in advanced technologies to enhance and extend telehealth, such as through our partnership with American Well, Doctor On Demand and Teledoc, which leverage mobile technology. In one MinuteClinic telehealth study, 95 percent of patients were highly satisfied with their experience. One-third said they preferred it to a traditional doctor visit.

Meeting Evolving Patient Needs in the Future

As the cost of health care steadily increases, the demand for high-quality, accessible and affordable health care options will continue to rise. So we’re expanding the reach and scope of affordable care through our extensive suite of assets, including traditional pharmacy and health care services, as well as services made possible by new technologies.