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Healthcare Consumer Engagement Increasing

Deloitte published its 2015 Healthcare Consumer Survey to examine online resource and technology use by patients. This is important, as the health care industry has expanded the development of online information resources, mobile applications, and personal health devices.  Many of these tools are designed to increase "consumer engagement" and to help individuals take action to improve their health, make informed decisions, and engage effectively and efficiently with physicans and the health care system.

This survey included a sample of 3,000 to 4,000 adults (18 years and older) and is representative of the US Census with respect to age, gender, race/ethnicity, income, geography, insurance status, and insurance source. This year’s survey was conducted between January 16, 2015 and February 8, 2015. Not all survey questions were repeated each year. Wherever comparable data are available, year-to-year trends are shown. (Citation source:

Deloitte’s 2015 Survey of US Health Care Consumers suggest consumer engagement is increasing in three important areas:

  • Partnering with providers. More consumers today prefer to partner with doctors instead of relying passively on them to make treatment decisions. Thirty-four percent of survey respondents strongly believe that doctors should encourage patients to research and ask questions about their treatment, and 58 percent feel that doctors should explain treatment costs to them before decisions are made.
  • Tapping online resources. Consumers’ trust in the reliability of information sources is rising. Fifty-two percent report searching online for health or care-related information; additionally, use of social media, patient portals, and performance scorecards is growing. One-quarter of consumers say they have looked at a scorecard or report card to compare the performance of doctors, hospitals, or health plans compared to 19 percent two years ago. Among Millennials (18-33 yr olds) who have needed medical care, scorecard use has grown from 31 percent to 49 percent
  • Relying on technology. From 2013 to 2015, consumers’ use of technology to measure fitness and health improvement goals has grown from 17 percent to 28 percent. Use is highest among Millennials, at 45 percent of that group. Among consumers with major chronic conditions, tech-based monitoring has jumped from 22 percent to 39 percent in the last two years. More than 60 percent of tech users say that utilizing health technologies has had a significant impact on their behavior.

Some groups are transforming into engaged consumers faster than others:

  • Poor health status. Consumers with major health issues generally show the highest levels of engagement and the biggest increases in the three areas mentioned above, a promising trend indicating that those who may have the greatest need to be more engaged are, in fact, moving in that direction.
  • Younger. Younger consumers are on a fast upward trajectory, starting at a higher level of engagement and showing greater gains on several measures than the other generations.
  • Higher income. Although engagement appears to be rising across all income levels, higher-income groups are more engaged than lower-income groups. This may reflect differences in access, awareness, and education.

Looking beyond demographic characteristics at consumers’ behaviors and attitudes, Deloitte identified six distinct consumer segments that differ systematically in their approach to health and health care. Some of these segments are more engaged than others:

  • Four segments, comprising 44 percent of the market, include consumers who are actively engaged in different ways (the survey names these groups: Online and Onboard, Sick and Savvy, Out and About, and Shop and Save).
  • Two segments, making up a larger share of the market (56 percent), are more passive and less engaged either because they have a less pressing need to be (Casual and Cautious) or they are comfortable with the choices they have made (Content and Compliant).

Not all surveyed consumers engage with the system in the same way and a large segment remains disengaged, suggesting that health care organizations should not use a 'one-size-fits-all' approach in their digital and consumer engagement strategies. 

Although an increase in consumer engagement is evident, the change is taking place slowly. The pace could pick up if health plans, providers, life sciences companies, and other stakeholders take advantage of opportunities to increase engagement by accelerating development of online resources that provide the trusted, accurate, and easy-to-understand information consumers want and the types of health technologies consumers find most useful. 

The author has no conflicts of interest to disclose related to this subject

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