While providers and payers struggle to find new ways to help patients improve their health – one of the strategies they’ve undertaken is the notion of greater ‘patient engagement’.  According to a survey produced by ORC International and commissioned by Change Healthcare – consumers aren’t seeing the value.

About 75% of consumers surveyed said that they have had experiences that were worse or no better with providers and health plans over the last two years.  According to Brian Kalis, managing director of digital health for consulting firm Accenture – “we’re at the early stages of the overall shift toward consumerism in the healthcare industry across providers and plan and although we’re seeing a fair amount of investment, the translation into results is still to be determined.”

So, does this mean that the strategy while great in concept is a wasted investment by cash strapped providers?  The verdict is still out.   Tate McDaniel, Change Healthcare’s senior vice president of engagement solutions noted “there’s consumer demand, and plans and providers are investing in the areas consumers want, but we’re not yet seeing consumers utilize these tools.”

It falls to payers and providers to change that, McDaniel said. They can help consumers by promoting their tools better and making them easier to access.

“How do we help these consumers begin to act on these intentions?” For one, payers and providers can better promote the tools, and for another, they can make them easier to access. Sometimes patients must go through a complex registration process to get to a tool.

“How do we help these consumers begin to act on these intentions?” For one, payers and providers can better promote the tools, and for another, they can make them easier to access. Sometimes patients must go through a complex registration process to get to a tool.

The design of consumer-engagement tools is one of the main barriers to use, Kalis said. “Just because you have a patient portal or telehealth doesn’t mean they’ve been put together in a way that’s usable or understandable,” he said.

According to the survey, consumers aren’t nearly as enthusiastic about telehealth as providers and payers, with just 5% of consumer surveyed saying they had used the technology or considered it important.

Consumers feel stronger about cost tools. They want transparent pricing, according to the report, but they’re not getting the tools to access it. Just 19% of providers have cost-of-care education programs for their patients, and only 8% of payers said cost transparency tools successfully engaged their customers.

Consumers also want care alerts as well as self-scheduling and provider and payer websites, according to the survey.

Providers and payers might turn to other industries to give consumers what they want, McDaniel said. Right now, “payers and providers are reluctant to push the envelope around consumer engagement,” he said. “Payers and providers will have to become more flexible and learn from other industries that may be similar, like financial services.”