By Rohan Kulkarni

Research released by Xerox today shows a substantial disconnect between healthcare professionals and the patients they serve.* When it comes to important questions like who is ultimately responsible for the health of a patient or how cost conscious patients are, the two groups are on different planets, frankly. (You can see the divide between healthcare professionals and patients on our infographic.)

But as we know, patients are not created equally – they’re a very heterogeneous group. The graphs below provide a glimpse into the differences between patients of different ages.

34 percent of survey respondents claim they are more likely to shop around for a healthcare provider than they were one year ago.

Xerox Healthcare Survey

Millennials and members of Generation X are more likely to shop around for healthcare than their baby boomer and greatest generation counterparts. This is to be expected – as patients age, they prioritize cost less and focus more on the quality of care and comfort they have with a healthcare provider.

42 percent of survey respondents claim they have delayed or not sought treatment because of the associated cost.

Xerox Healthcare Survey

 

The younger the patient, the more likely he or she is to delay treatment. One explanation is that older patients treat their healthcare with more urgency. Another, however, is that baby boomers and members of the greatest generation have more financial freedom than their younger counterparts. The rise of high-deductible healthcare plans has impacted younger patients who came to age during the recession era and a period of wage stagnation.

Rohan Kulkarni

“Healthcare consumers are not a homogeneous group – they differ widely in their attitudes toward healthcare.” – Rohan Kulkarni, vice president of Healthcare Strategy and Portfolio for Xerox

While different groups of patients have different attitudes toward healthcare, one thing the research results do show is a need for improved communication between professionals and patients across the board. Consider how much communication you typically have with your physician during a visit. I’ve visited mine for a total of around three hours over the last five years, but I would estimate I’ve only seen his face for around ten minutes, because his head has been buried in his laptop, turned away from me. This lack of communication is at the root of the disconnect between patients and professionals.

The divide is unsustainable. It’s not palatable to patients, and will harm providers equally if they don’t understand their patient population. Patient loyalty is a key driver of efficacy of care; it’s important for a physician to be a patient’s primary caregiver and maintain an ongoing relationship over time.

So what can providers do to close the gap?

  • Get savvier with technology to automate front office tasks and re-allocate resources needed to spend time with patients.
  • Deploy telemedicine solutions to improve access to and timeliness of care.
  • Become proactive in engaging patients. Rather than passively waiting for patients to call and schedule an appointment when they are sick, providers can reach out to high-risk patient cohorts and ensure a healthier outcome.

Patient engagement is central to improving health outcomes and lowering the cost of care. If healthcare professionals can embrace the change and demonstrate their commitment to partnering with patients to keep them healthy, patient retention and loyalty will improve.

[*] Study conducted by Y&R’s BAV Consulting on behalf of Xerox among 761 U.S. adults who are healthcare decision makers for their households and 204 healthcare payer and providers. Full results and methodology available upon request.