Here's a news headline that comes as no surprise to marketing savvy healthcare providers: More Americans Are Checking Prices Before Getting Health Care. And, according to a new poll, price is a significant influence for two out of three shoppers.
Marketing professionals are acquainted with the pervasive "new normal"—the buyer's concern about the cost of healthcare. In some instances there's an outright reluctance to bite into the already-stretched household budget for medical care at all.
The headline comes from the NPR-Thompson Reuters Health folks who compared data from two polls—one in 2010 and one in 2012—regarding the frequency with which people comparison shop. For planning purposes, medical practice providers, administrators and marketing professionals should take note of the numbers as well as how they have shifted.
Some of the key points include:
"In both polls, about 80 percent of the surveyed households included someone that had received health care services in the past year. However, among the recently polled health care consumers, 16 percent had looked for prices beforehand, compared to 11 percent in the 2010 poll.
"The most common source for pricing information was the doctor's office, cited by about 50 percent of those who had checked on pricing. The second most popular source was insurance companies, cited by about 49 percent—up by 26 percent since 2010."
The NPR-Reuters news story reports that the trend toward higher deductible insurance coverage, in the opinion of some observers, may be an incentive for people to look for the best price. No doubt that's one factor. More broadly, however, the nation's years of a soft economy and disturbing economic times has turned most prospective patients into cost-conscious consumers.
It turns out that "price shoppers" are not just calling on the phone. Although inbound calls to the physician's office or group medical practice is still a popular communications channel, the lineup of shopping tools has changed between 2010 and 2012 polls:
Although nearly all types of medical and dental practices encounter price-shopping patients, for obvious reasons, marketing and advertising healthcare services on the basis of price alone is not the answer. The poll information provides some useful insights. And based on our experience, consider these recommendations for handling the increasing inquiries about cost.
Although circumstances and particulars will vary, one thing that nearly every medical and dental practice have in common is the price shopper. These cost-conscious consumers are increasing in number, and they represent prospective new business for the practice. Since you know their question, it's sound business to have a system in place to help them make an informed decision.
For more guidance on this topic, see our related article titled, 5 Steps to Increased Revenue When the Phone Rings.