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Consumer satisfaction lower for hospitals, higher for payers

Outpatient care settings are garnering more satisfaction than other providers, but overall satisfaction is down.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Consumer satisfaction with health insurers is on the upswing, according to an annual report from the American Consumer Satisfaction Index. Hospitals, however, aren't quite so lucky.

In 2018, hospitals earned a score of 76 on ACSI's indicator. Their most recent score is a mere 72, with the decline driven largely by a sizeable drop in consumer rankings for emergency department care, which dipped from a 73 to a 67 over the same period.

Inpatient care also declined but not as steeply, falling from a 77 on the indicator to a 76.

Perhaps reflecting emerging models of care that emphasize growing consumerism in the industry, outpatient care settings are garnering more satisfaction. While outpatient care provided by hospitals dropped on the index from a 78 score in 2018 to a 75, ambulatory care netted a 77 for the second year running.

ED wait times were cited as a key component to declining consumer satisfaction with emergency care.

WHAT'S THE IMPACT

ASCI rates satisfaction in different industries, and while hospitals proved more popular than cable and internet providers, it came in well behind banking, cars and hotels, which earned scores of 80, 79 and 75 respectively.

Health insurers fared better. In fact, they earned their highest score in a decade, climbing to 74 from 73 a year ago, with Humana leading the charge among insurers with a score of 79. Trailing Humana was Kaiser Permanente (77) and Aetna (76). Aetna earned its highest score in the report's history. UnitedHealthcare earned a score of 75.

Falling below the average was Cigna and Blue Cross Blue Shield with 72 and 71 scores, with BCBS receiving especially low marks for prescription drug coverage.

THE LARGER TREND

Customer satisfaction among commercial health plan members has improved nationwide, but health insurers are still confronting challenges when it comes to delivering on the financial and personal health expectations of their members.

According to the J.D. Power 2019 Commercial Member Health Plan Study published in May, the key challenges health plans must address are higher co-pays for physician visits and coordination of care between different providers and care settings.

While health plans generally are adept at managing the operational aspects of their business, a bigger challenge is addressing member expectations based on their experiences in other industries. Those industries, such as retail, tend to address service needs more effectively through top-of-the-line technology.

Health plan members are largely satisfied with their coverage and benefits, but when it comes to factors such as navigating cost issues or choosing between urgent and primary care, a lot of health plans are dropping the ball, the report found.
 

Focus on Patient Experience

This month, our coverage will continue a special focus on the patient experience. We'll talk to the thought leaders and first-movers reimagining the how and where of patient-friendly tech, and report on ways to activate, if not delight, the people they treat.

Twitter: @JELagasse

Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com