So much in our lives has moved to an “on-demand” model for critical and high quality services — we can sell homes, manage stock portfolios and consult legal experts using the apps on our phones. It’s not surprising, then, that patient behavior is changing too — so much so that 3 out of 4 consumers will not choose a doctor who can’t see them within one week.
The reality today is that for many types of care, consumers have come to prioritize convenience and access above relationships with individual providers. One area of healthcare where you’ll notice this trend is urgent care. In the past, there was a stigma associated with urgent care, where it was often seen as a second-to-last resort, only in front of going to the ER. But in a world where it takes an average of 24 days to get an appointment with a new primary care physician, urgent care has become the go-to for patients who demand a convenient, high quality option for their healthcare needs. Each year there are more than 150M visits to urgent care and the number of locations in the US continues to grow 5% annually.
There is also deep frustration and desire among patients to better understand their healthcare costs. High deductible health plans and increased copayment responsibilities are putting consumers on alert. Understandably, with more and more consumers paying out of pocket, they want to know how much they’re going to pay for care before the bill comes. Despite this widespread desire, not much has changed to help consumers understand what their cost is going to be. The result is an astounding discrepancy between those patients asking for prices — 70% — and those receiving them — 23%. More shockingly, nearly half say they feel “stupid” for even asking.