Healthcare Costs, Not Quality Concerns Americans

High costs of prescription drugs outweigh the concern of quality of care received in some states.

The skyrocketing cost of healthcare—including prescription drugs—has many Americans skipping necessary medication doses or procedures. Although many legislators have introduced bills to combat high costs, yet none have passed thus far.

A recent survey conducted by the Cornell Institute for Healthy Futures found that New York residents are more concerned about the cost of healthcare than its quality. The authors found that 58% of residents indicated cost was their top concern, a 12.6% increase from 2016.

Compared with 2016, concerns about the cost of prescription drugs and insurance also increased. The authors found that concerns about access to care grew 15% in 2017 to 23.5%, according to the study.

“We think that this change is because the healthcare law, also known as Obamacare, may be reversed or replaced,” said co-author Lu Kong. “Without it, premiums, copays and all the out-of-pocket expenses are expected to go up. That’s why high cost was a big concern last year and even more of a concern this year.”

Notably, participants were significantly less worried about the quality of care compared with costs, according to the survey.

“That result tells me that the technical competence of our medical care in New York is really good,” said co-author Rohit Verma, PhD. “But the infrastructure, the supporting business model we have created around health care, is a bigger problem than the clinical care. That, to me, was a surprise, but it was a pleasant surprise.”

Nearly 65% of participants favored providers using computers, tablets, or electronic devices during their visits, according to the study. As more healthcare providers and facilities move towards paperless solutions, these findings are significant.

“Those people said it was more efficient way of organizing medical records, and the doctor had faster access to more information with which to make better decisions about their healthcare,” said study co-author Hessam Sadatsafavi, PhD.

More than 75% of respondents reported they would use telemedicine to obtain healthcare for a minor problem, while only 18% would use it for a more serious problem, according to the study.

The authors noted that participants generally seem to approve of technology use in healthcare, which aligns with how prevalent technology is in everyday life.

“That result informs me that if we do technology implementation right, then it could in the long run positively affect cost problems and hopefully access problems that patients currently face,” Dr Verma said.

Overall, the authors found that younger individuals and those with higher education and income were more comfortable with technology compared with older individuals with low levels of education and income, according to the study. However, race, ethnicity, and location did not affect willingness to use telemedicine.

The authors report that these findings should help providers and policymakers identify the top concerns of certain Americans.

“It seems that income, education and age are the most important factors in determining whether people use these services. Care providers and decision-makers should understand this disparity,” the authors wrote.