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Top 3 challenges facing healthcare consumers

People are bearing more responsibility for selecting and paying for their own care, and those costs are rising rapidly. A survey by Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research & Education Trust found that, between 2010 and 2015, deductibles for all workers have risen almost three times as fast as premiums and about seven times as fast as wages and inflation.

As their portion of healthcare costs soars, patients are eager to find ways to reduce spending. But they face three main challenges that prevent them from becoming truly informed and empowered consumers:

1) Fractured information. It’s difficult for consumers to get access to their complete health data. They might have separate portals to manage from their primary care physician, specialist and local hospital. Even though the majority of consumers want to share information to aid in diagnosis and treatment, it is challenging to do so easily. This problem can be resolved if patients use a portal, like Allscripts FollowMyHealth®, that enables them to upload clinical information from any vendor’s electronic health record (EHR).

2) Lack of price transparency. A survey found that 66% of consumers have never talked to their providers about the cost of a visit, and 60% have never discussed the price of a procedure. Even when they broach the subject, consumers often cannot get trustworthy information about the cost, quality and level of satisfaction with healthcare services.

3) Overwhelming benefit navigation. New benefits arrangements can be challenging to understand and use effectively. Employers, for example, have started by moving to consumer-directed, high-deductible plans. Some have taken it a step further to defined contribution plans. In these plans, employers allot a certain budget to employees and give them more freedom and responsibility for how to spend these healthcare dollars.

Culturally, we are much more interested in health, wellness and fitness than ever before. This phenomenon is spurred on by three trends: 1) people are individually responsible for more of their health care, 2) there are more sources of data available about health, and 3) there are more technology tools and applications in health care.

Whatever your health issue or challenge is – whether you want to track daily steps, or manage fertility, or control blood sugar levels – there is an app for it. The percentage of consumers with at least one medical, health or fitness app on their mobile devices doubled between 2013 and 2015. These applications empower consumers in new ways.

Providers will succeed when they offer open, connected technologies that overcome these challenges and enable patients to take charge of their data.

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