What Drives People to Shop for Healthcare?

Shopping for healthcare can be a hassle, but consumers are starting to shop with the help of real savings and incentives. Vitals, which operates Vitals SmartShopper, the program that pays people to shop for care, uncovered what’s motivating today’s healthcare shoppers in a recent press release.

Vitals first annual Shopping Report analyzed the activity of over one million members in its program from January 2016 to July 2016. Women accounted for 70% of the shoppers. And while 42% of their member base is 46-years-old and over, that group accounted for 70% of the shopping.

Because large price variations exist between medical facilities for the same procedure regardless of quality, SmartShopper rewards people who shop for high-quality, lower-cost care. The program shares a portion of the savings generated with members, giving them up to $500 in cash. But modest amounts drive the majority of shopping. Over half of the incentive amounts members earned were $50 or less. Less than 6% were $200 or more.

The top five procedures people shopped for included lab work, mammograms, MRIs, colonoscopies and CT scans. These types of procedures are routine and often aren’t performed by a member’s primary care doctor.

“People don’t have an emotional attachment to the radiologist tech who performs their imaging scan or the phlebotomist who draws their blood,” said Mitch Rothschild, chairman and founder of Vitals. “People are willing to shop for these type of routine procedures because it doesn’t disrupt the traditional doctor-patient relationship.”

While 66% of people start an online, two-thirds of the people who actually switch provider – and therefore create savings – come in through the call center where consumers can talk to personal shopping advocates.

Members were also more willing to switch when they didn’t have to travel far for a better value facility. Over 80% of the people who switched drove less than 20 miles. In comparison, 4% of people were willing to drive 40 miles or more.

“Today, urgent care centers, imaging and surgical centers can often do the same procedure at a fraction of the cost of a nearby hospital, without sacrificing quality,” said Rothschild. “Couple convenient access to those facilities with a tangible and timely incentive and you can motivate people to shop for medical care.”

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