Overcoming Consumer Denial in Healthcare
Published on February 7th, 2017
Consumers refuse to accept the truth when it comes to their healthcare finances.
Whether it is fear of the unknown, distrust of the industry, lack of interest or knowledge, the reality is that consumers aren’t planning for their healthcare present and future. Fifty percent of consumers don’t know how to 1) determine a savings vehicle or savings amount or 2) predict current and future healthcare costs. Twenty-three percent of consumers aren’t saving beyond their current plan year and the majority of consumers under-fund their healthcare savings.
A 2017 Alegeus research report found consumers to be optimistic about the future of their healthcare finances, yet frustrated with reality. Their lack of knowledge and control greatly inhibits them from making savvy decisions on healthcare spending and saving and this reflects a growing problem: consumers are assuming more responsibility, yet they are unprepared and, in some cases, unwilling to take accountability.
Frustration manifests itself in denial and fear.
Denial is defined to be the psychological defense mechanism that helps a person avoid a potentially distressing truth and leads to fear of the unknown. More than 75% of consumers expressed fear regarding their healthcare finances. They were afraid of being hit with an unexpected healthcare expense they cannot afford and before they saved enough, and forty-five percent feared they may not save enough because they simply didn’t know how to estimate how much they were likely to spend.
Consumers turn to each other for advice on healthcare and finances, not the experts.
Consumers do not trust healthcare experts and providers to guide them. While trust varies by area of healthcare focus, consumers most trusted their doctors (59 percent), followed by family and peers (56 percent) for sound advice regarding their healthcare and finances. This can be much like the-blind-leading-the-blind, given that 70 percent of health savings account (HSA) holders can’t pass a basic proficiency test. It is evident that healthcare experts must deliver significant support and a heightened consumer experience in order to build credibility and win the confidence of consumers.
The denial effect on healthcare consumerism.
Ninety percent of consumers say they want to better understand and engage in the management of their healthcare; however, only half of consumers (53 percent) are likely to become more actively involved in making healthcare decisions this year. This example of consumer denial was prevalent in the Alegeus research findings – with clear distinctions between how consumers think and behave in healthcare today. While thirty-two percent of consumers are optimistic about the future of their healthcare finances, eighty-percent expressed negative feelings when asked to think of healthcare today.
Overcoming the state of denial in healthcare.
It is clear there is work to do to bridge the gap between what consumers say they want and what they’re properly equipped and motivated to do. The good news is that consumers do believe that healthcare providers can improve their personal healthcare experiences through education, tools and support that engages and empowers them to take ownership and make better healthcare decisions.