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New Study Highlights Healthcare and Plan Priorities for Consumers

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona works with USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics to conduct survey to better understand consumer healthcare experience and values

PHOENIX – Dec. 5, 2019 – Rising healthcare costs are at the core of the national health care debate. Many have pinned their hopes on new digital technologies to help reduce costs and expand access. In light of these trends, results of a new survey on consumer preferences are especially important.

New research finds that while patients are interested in using digital healthcare services, they still value high-quality interactions with their doctors. The survey was conducted by the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics in collaboration with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona (BCBSAZ).

Health plans increasingly vary in what combination of traditional and digital services or features they offer members, especially as new technologies and innovations are introduced by the healthcare industry. With this in mind, BCBSAZ and the USC Schaeffer Center collaborated on a survey to better understand consumer priorities in this new environment.

“It’s our job to adapt the current healthcare ecosystem so that it aligns with how people want to receive their care today,” says Pam Kehaly, President and CEO of BCBSAZ. “We are working with partners to find out what consumers want and to create a care delivery system that is affordable, personalized, and convenient.”

BCBSAZ and the USC Schaeffer Center developed a survey aimed at evaluating consumer healthcare priorities, demand for health plan features, and interest in using digital healthcare services.

Polling data suggest that the tide has turned in the last decade, and consumers are now more focused on costs and affordability than access to a broad network of providers,” says Dana Goldman, director of the USC Schaeffer Center. “At the same time, other research has shown that consumers still highly value spending time with their doctor. We recognized the need to disentangle these competing demands to better understand how health plans can deliver value, and how digital services can enhance rather than detract from that goal.”

Snapshot of Consumer Interest in Digital Services

Digital healthcare services have the potential to enhance patient experience while helping to reduce costs and there is widespread belief that they will transform the industry. Yet, there is relatively limited understanding of consumer interest in adopting these new technologies, especially if it supplants traditional care delivery. In order to understand consumer demand for digital healthcare technologies, the survey used a combination of questions on consumer interest, priorities, and willingness to pay.








More than half of respondents said they would be likely to have a virtual office visit to get immediate answers to urgent healthcare issues, while almost seven-in-ten indicated they would be likely to use an app or online system for appointment scheduling and health care reminders. When asked to consider a hypothetical health plan that offered these virtual visits and online services, 45 percent of respondents indicated that they would be willing to pay more for them (averaging $25 per month across all respondents).












However, when required to prioritize, respondents ranked other aspects of healthcare interactions – like high-quality interactions with their doctor – much higher than access to digitalized services.

“These findings highlight why we need rigorous survey techniques to really understand consumer preferences,” said Goldman. “People will say they are interested in many features, but in the real world they must make tradeoffs with valuable premium dollars to meet their priorities.”

The findings will be used to provide insight regarding priority areas for subsequent research and policy analysis. It will also set a baseline for future consumer research.

“The survey tells us that, while respondents care about affordability, they also value quality time with their provider,” said Kehaly. “We are working to better understand how to meet these priorities, using all the tools – including the exciting new technologies that are improving everyday – to make this happen.”

The survey was conducted in October 2019 through the Understanding America Study (UAS), a nationally representative internet panel of American households. The sample included 1,531 respondents, and the results were weighted to reflect the Arizona population. More information about the UAS panel, methodology and complete survey results can be found, here.

About Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona (BCBSAZ) is committed to helping Arizonans get healthier faster and stay healthier longer. With a focus on connecting people with the care they need, BCBSAZ offers health insurance and related services to more than 1.5 million customers. BCBSAZ, a not-for-profit company, is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. The company employs more than 1,800 people in its Phoenix, Chandler, Flagstaff, and Tucson offices. Through advanced clinical programs and community outreach, BCBSAZ is inspiring health. To learn more, visit azblue.com.

About the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics

The Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics at the University of Southern California – a collaboration between the Sol Price School of Public Policy and the USC School of Pharmacy – unites health policy scholars and policymakers to address the most pressing health care issues. In just ten years, the USC Schaeffer Center has become one of the nation’s leading health policy centers providing an integral, nonpartisan voice in today’s health care dialogue. The USC Schaeffer Center produces and disseminates timely analysis seeking practical answers that engage both the private and public sectors. To learn more, visit healthpolicy.usc.edu.