New Study Shows Health Information Disconnect

ANN ARBOR — A new study from Ann Arbor health consultants Altarum Institute and the New York-based health researcher Robert Wood Johnson Foundation finds that most vulnerable healthcare consumers struggle to understand their options, their costs, and even the language around their care.

The research also explored marketplace perceptions of these consumers’ health information needs and discovered a gap between stakeholder impressions and consumers’ reality.

“These findings tell us that many consumers, especially the most vulnerable, face significant barriers in finding the information they want and need,” said Andrea Ducas, program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “We must address serious gaps in access to information in order to build an inclusive health care system for all.”

The study findings, released in conjunction with a panel discussion  at the 2017 World Economic Forum, are the culmination of the “Right Place, Right Time” initiative – which aims to shed light on how consumers access health information and how the marketplace can better meet their needs.

To view the “Right Place, Right Time” reports, please visit: and

This research focused on the needs of lower-income consumers, Medicaid beneficiaries, the uninsured, caregivers, and Spanish speakers. For the consumer component, Altarum Institute conducted interviews with 65 consumers and a nationally representative mail and web survey of more than 4,000 respondents.

For the marketplace component, Oliver Wyman conducted interviews with approximately 100 executives from across the health landscape to assess the current state of health information provision. Follow-up interviews gauged stakeholders’ reactions to the consumer findings.

“Today’s healthcare organizations need a multi-pronged strategy to ensure they are providing all consumers with the right information, in the right place, at the right time,” said Helen Leis, Oliver Wyman partner and study lead. “These reports provide a robust set of data to help guide those decisions.”

Key findings and stakeholder reactions include:

* About 50 percent of respondents are not satisfied with healthcare cost information.

* The uninsured are the least satisfied, with 70 percent of uninsured respondents not satisfied.

* Spanish speakers are reluctant to ask for resources in their language. Almost half of Spanish-speaking respondents say that language issues present a barrier when communicating with doctors.When resources are not offered outright, some Spanish speakers worry about prejudice and may seek a different care provider. While most health organizations have Spanish-language resources, they did not have protocol for proactively offering them.

* Many low-income patients in poorer health feel disrespected by providers and are less likely to trust healthcare information or follow medical advice. Patients feeling disrespected are three times more likely to believe doctors are inaccurate and two times more likely to not take their medications as directed, compared with patients who feel respected. The high correlation between patients who feel disrespected and  non-adherence prompted marketplace leaders to identify opportunities to ensure consumers are treated with respect.
Patients seek clues to provider warmth through online patient reviews and provider photos:

* While only 42 percent of survey respondents had used patient reviews, of those that did, 83 percent say reviews influenced their choice of doctor. Respondents said respect and sensitivity are among the most important qualities in a physician, and they look for that in provider photos. Marketplace reaction included setting goal to be more intentional about the provider photos and more proactively manage patient reviews.

* Caregivers are information “superusers.” Caregivers for children are nearly three times as likely to use a health app as non-caregivers (70 percent vs 25 percent). Health plans and providers acknowledged the need to involve  caregivers even more during information dissemination as well as care delivery.

“We have placed an increasing burden on consumers to make smart decisions about their healthcare or risk their own wellbeing. Despite this, we have not always equipped consumers with the information they need to manage their health affordably,” said Dr. Chris Duke, research director of the consumer study and director of Altarum Institute’s Center for Consumer Choice in Health Care.

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