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What Matters Most To The Health Care Consumer?

by Leslie Read & Matt Kaye, Deloitte

October 16, 2017

Health care is complex. There are no simple, one-time transactions. Rather, health care is a highly intimate and lifelong customer experience, which is often complicated by changing regulatory environments, evolving business models, and interactions with varying stakeholders. Given this dynamic, how should a consumer-centric health plan anticipate and effectively address shifts in consumer attitudes and behavior?

To answer this, Deloitte set out to get to the root of health care consumers’ preferences. After conducting focus groups with consumers to hear about their experiences in their own words, we designed the Consumer Priorities in Health Care Survey to look critically at how consumers prioritize their health care interactions. The survey revealed quantitatively what consumers value most (personalization through provider relationships) and least (digitally enabled health care management).

To find out what really matters, we asked consumers to force rank their priorities. We used the Bracket™ methodology 1, similar to what’s used in sports tournaments. Sixty-four interactions across the health care ecosystem were randomly pitted against each other, and nearly 1,800 respondents selected what they felt was truly most important for each ‘bracket,’ two interactions at a time. After assigning each interaction a resulting score and prioritizing the results, four distinct clusters of health care interactions emerged (listed in order of importance to participants):

  1. Personalization expected via providers;
  2. Economically rational coverage and care choices;
  3. Convenience driven access and use of care; and
  4. Digital connectedness to manage health care.

A personalized provider experience remains the top priority for all consumer groups, especially for senior and Hispanic populations. Above all, consumers want to be heard, understood, and given clear instructions by their doctors and their teams. Within this grouping, direct care experiences, such as non-rushed appointments, ranked relatively higher than indirect exchanges, such as pre-appointment planning.

Following provider experience, we found consumers valued affordability over convenience. Transparent cost and network information ranked second (2x the expected average score), indicating consumers’ desires to know “what is covered and what it costs.” Convenience came in third (slightly below the expected average), showing consumers – especially those who do not regularly access the system – still value the when, where, and how of care and assistance in navigating these details.

Alternatively, in today’s technologically connected world, it may be surprising to hear that consumers ranked digital experiences lowest among their health care priorities. The research shows that there is slow uptake of the digital tools currently available to customers. For each digital interaction included in our survey, only 36 percent or fewer respondents engaged in the interaction in the past. We believe this limited utilization may be in part attributable to current tools falling short of customers’ needs as well as overall limited digital health awareness. In the face of ongoing changes in regulatory policy, consumer demographics, and new value-based business models, how can plans properly balance investment in the health care consumer’s experience?

To start, health plans can:

  • Recognize the importance of the provider-patient relationship, identifying opportunities to enable better patient engagement, such as evaluating how much customer experience design and investment should be done internally versus alongside external stakeholders;
  • Reevaluate (but not reduce) digital investments, refocusing on tools that improve these top consumer priorities (provider experiences and affordability) and tracking how consumers interact with digital resources;
  • Increase the transparency and accessibility of personalized cost, billing, and claims data, thinking beyond the standard Explanation of Benefits (EOB) statement and simplifying product design to demonstrate value; and
  • Prioritize customer segmentation as a key component to removing existing barriers to convenient and accessible care for all consumers.

For additional insights into how consumers ranked health care interactions and what this means for health plans, read the full 2016 Consumer Priorities in Health Care Survey report and watch the video here.


Leslie Read is a Principal and leader of Deloitte’s Health Plans Customer Transformation practice. Her client work has focused on helping Chief Marketing Officers, Chief Strategy Officers, Chief Customer Officers, and other health plan and provider sector leaders to develop innovative programs that transform their organizations to be more consumer centric. In doing so, they drive greater consumer engagement in health as well as consumer-driven organic growth, enabled by new capabilities focused on the emerging health care consumer.

Matt Kaye is a Managing Director in Monitor Deloitte’s health care strategy practice. He focuses on consumer strategy & innovation, consumer experience, consumer analytics, and digital engagement. He primarily advises executives in health plans and also selectively serves provider, retail pharmacy, and health care technology clients to understand how consumers navigate the broader health care ecosystem.

1: “Bracket” is the trademark of TRC, a research partner commissioned by Deloitte for this study