Folks these days seem to be confused when it comes to choosing a path toward better health. And escalating health care costs are making better health decisions more difficult than ever.
That is one takeaway from a recent survey by HeathMine, a data-driven provider of personalized health and disease management activities. HealthMine solicited information from 500 adults with health insurance, asking them about how they manage their own health.
Many of the responses revealed the uncertainty with which consumers approach personal health management. The survey found that 40 percent had experienced increased health care costs in the last year. Yet nearly half of those hadn’t done a thing to change the way they managed their health care. That in itself is a bit confusing.
But even among those who had taken action, the trends weren’t especially clear. When asked what steps they have taken to try to offset the increasing cost of health care, eating healthier (61 percent) and exercising more (53 percent) were popular choices.
But, given the option of “going to the doctor more” or “going to the doctor less,” people clearly were of two minds about which was the better choice. “Going more” pulled 43 percent, while “going less” was chosen by 35 percent. While the former seems to be the logical choice for improving one’s health, many felt the latter was a better way to cut the cost of medical spending — at least in the short run.
A similar indecision cropped up when it came to taking, or not taking, the medication one has been prescribed. Nearly 3 in 10 said they would take their medication more frequently; but 17 percent said they would skip it “when I can,” which seems to be a rather risky self-diagnostic decision. Then there were the 27 percent who chose “treating myself over the counter” as the path toward better health.
Brennan Collins, Vice President of Product at HealthMine, wasn’t confused in his analysis of the data.
“The most alarming findings of this survey are the 17 percent of respondents who skip medications and the 35 percent who are going to the doctor less to save money. Getting those who are ill or struggling with a chronic condition to properly manage their disease is where the big cost savings lie for plan sponsors and members. That's because it is the 20 percent of members struggling with illness who usually incur about 80 percent of the total plan costs,” he said. “Skipping meds might save a dollar today, but costs thousands tomorrow.”
The survey also sought information about how patients choose a doctor. While most of the responses were fairly standard (accepts insurance, conveniently located, certification and experience, compatibility), it may be worth noting that the least important factor, tied with “gender” for last place at 10 percent of respondents, was “technology forward (uses EHRs, patient portal, text messages).”