Where should I go for care?

Understanding How Consumers Make Healthcare Decisions   

Where should I go for care?

It’s day two of my eight-year-old niece’s fever and it won’t break. Before her parents went on vacation, I promised to take care of her. Sure, she wasn’t feeling well, but it was just a fever and we were doing all the right things: Tylenol, rest and fluids. But as day two progressed, she grew more despondent and refused to drink anything. Now what?

We’ve all had to make choices about where to seek care for an unplanned health event, but today we have more choices about where to go.

Whether it’s extended hours, virtual visits or money-back guarantees, choices are transforming care delivery. Understanding how these choices shape decisions will make or break marketing strategies seeking to increase usage. That is why Market Strategies focused its latest self-funded research study on how people choose where to go when someone is sick. What we learned will help answer a question salient in the minds of every health system professional: “How do we maximize the likelihood that consumers will choose us, when deciding where to go for care?”

New Healthcare Options Are Catching On

Market Strategies has tracked consumer decisions about unplanned care for many years to understand the factors that drive consumer decisions. While the factors that drive a decision of where to go have largely remained the same, the choice of where to go has not. Consumers have more options and are using new options with increasing frequency. Our research found that:

  • Nearly four in ten (37%) consumers visited a retail clinic in the past year, and one in three (32%) went to an urgent care clinic.
  • Compared to a study earlier this year, there has been a threefold increase in the number of consumers indicating they, or a family member, had a “virtual visit.” We are also seeing increases in the number of people who say they would consider having a virtual visit or going to retail clinics.

Not long ago our clients wanted to learn how retail clinics would affect their business objectives. Today, virtual visits present an additional way to erode market share. Instead of learning how to get consumers to eschew the retail clinic and choose one’s primary care provider, our health system leaders now want to know how they can keep “members” (another change) contained within their offerings (i.e., employed PCP, ED, branded urgent care and branded virtual visit).

A Tool to Guide Patients to Specific Types of Care

To answer this question, more than 1,000 consumers participated in our decision choice task (conjoint) to choose where they would seek care for a persistent fever that was worsening. As seen in prior studies, cost and convenience win the day: Almost 60% of consumer decisions are based on where to go and how much it will cost. The combined effect of logistics (i.e., appointment access, distance to location and wait times) makes up another 30% of the overall decision.

While that may not be surprising, the strength of our study is its ability to pinpoint where people will go and, more importantly, how to “guide” them to certain types of care. For example, when we hold variables constant, consumers tend to pick their primary care provider. But, suppose a health system is having physician access issues and wants to get more members to choose their urgent care location or use their virtual visits service, instead of losing patients to a nearby retail clinic. Our findings demonstrate how modifications to price or convenience can drive consumers to a virtual visit to maintain market share.

These ‘what-if’ scenarios are easily accessed via our Healthcare Decision-Based Simulator Tool. By simply clicking a mouse, you can modify price, convenience or other features in the tool to learn how changes to one or more factors ‘drive’ people to select healthcare settings. For health systems trying to manage their array of offerings, this tool is invaluable to keep people within the health system.

If you are a hospital or health system and need to better understand how healthcare consumers choose care to develop more effective marketing strategies, download “Guiding Patients to Care: What Health System Professionals Need to Know About Consumer Choice.” In addition to learning how people choose where to go when they feel sick, you’ll get data on:

  • The importance of personal physician in the selection of a health plan
  • Levels of trust for physicians and various insurers
  • Likelihood to use web-based physician visits

Download the Report

For detailed findings or to see our Healthcare Decision-Based Simulator Tool in action, email me.

Oh, by the way, I took my niece to urgent care and am happy to report she is doing great.

As consumerism in healthcare grows, Market Strategies will continue its series of articles on this topic. In our next installment, we will dive deeper into the Net Promoter® Score (NPS) consumers give various industries, including health insurance and primary care physicians, to understand how to influence consumer preference for recommending their doctor or insurer.

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