Patient Privacy and Security Are Greatest Healthcare Concerns for Consumers

A recent survey conducted by the health insurer Aetna explored consumers’ attitudes to healthcare, their relationships with their providers, and what they view as the most important aspects of healthcare.

The Health Ambitions Study was conducted on 1,000 consumers aged 18 and above, with a corresponding survey conducted on 400 physicians – 200 primary care doctors and 200 specialists.

The consumer survey showed consumers are paying attention to their healthcare. A majority pay attention to holistic health and seek resources that support better health and wellbeing. 60% of respondents to the survey said that if they were given an extra hour each day they would spend it doing activities that improved their health or mental health. 67% of women and 44% of men would devote the hour to these activities.

Fewer women believed their physicians understood their health needs than men. 65% of women and 80% of men said their doctor is familiar with their health goals. Women find it harder than men to talk to their physicians about their lifestyle habits (70% vs 81%) and women were much less likely than men to take their doctor’s advice. Only 50% of women said they would be very likely to take their doctor’s advice compared with 81% of men.

“Women are often the primary caregiver for their families,” said Aetna President Karen Lynch. “So, when it comes to health and lifestyle goals, women need more support to feel confident in their health decisions for themselves and others.

One of the main areas where improvements are seen to be needed are reducing stress – a major goal for 45% of women and 28% of men – and getting help with mental health issues – improving mental health was a major goal of 36% of respondents.

70% of patients said they wanted their physicians to speak to them in language that they can easily understand, 66% want to be able to get face to face appointments when they need them, and 66% want access to other healthcare professionals to help coordinate their care.

Offering digital health services is important for patients, especially the younger generation. 35% of respondents under the age of 35 said digital messaging would be valuable and 36% said they would like the option of having virtual office visits. The same percentage said telehealth would be useful. Digital messaging would also be valuable to older patients, with 32% of over 65s saying the service would be useful. Only 17% of patients in that age range thought they would benefit from virtual office visits and just 14% would benefit from telehealth.

Consumers were asked about their biggest concerns about healthcare, and while rising health care costs are an issue, the cost of healthcare was not the biggest concern for consumers. Patient privacy and data security were more important to consumers than the cost of healthcare.

80% rated patient privacy as very important, 76% of consumers rated data security as very important, and 73% rated the cost of health care as very important. Patient privacy was more important to women (84%) than men (71%). Women were also more concerned than men about data security (80%/66%).  Getting personalized care was rated as very important by 71% of respondents, and coordination among healthcare providers was very important for 68% of patients.

The survey on physicians revealed only half of physicians felt that mental health counselors were important for patients, substance abuse counselors were only seen as important by 41% of physicians, 37% said nutritionists were important, 35% said social workers were important, and only 32% said in-home aids and liaisons are important.

Access to these healthcare professionals was better for providers involved in value-based care models. For example, 61% of physicians in value-based care models had good or very good access to nutritionists compared to 46% of physicians who were not in value-based care models.

Author: Steve Alder has many years of experience as a journalist, and comes from a background in market research. He is a specialist on legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA. Steve holds a B.Sc. from the University of Liverpool.