Survey Finds Alternative Health Care Delivery Support

July 21, 2009 ( - Many U.S. consumers in a recent survey said they would not mind if a universal health care mandate translates into alternative ways of receiving medical care including workplace clinics.

A news release from PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) said 37% of consumers surveyed said they’d be likely to use a worksite health facility, while 36% would use a retail health clinic.

According to the news announcement, survey respondents said they would agree to have more electronic interaction with health providers and payers. Fifty-percent said they’d be willing to seek health care through the Internet or other technology as a substitute for a face-to-face, non-emergency visit. Of those, e-mail consultations was the preferred method of interaction (76%), followed by telehealth, question/answer fee-based consults, and an online forum/chat room monitored by a doctor.

Seventy-three percent of respondents said they would use biometric electronic remote monitoring services to track their condition and vital signs. Telehealth, the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications, such as video conferencing or biometric remote monitoring, is expanding access, particularly to specialty physicians for patients in remote and underserved areas, the report observed.

Meanwhile, 28% said they would be willing to participate in a shared medical appointment, typically a 60- to 90-minute session that includes a private or personal exam integrated with patient education and discussion with a group of 10 to 15 people.

The poll results were published in a new PwC paper entitled “Jammed access: Widening the front door to healthcare.”

When asked about the health care reform efforts in general, 55% of the 1,000 respondents said they don't believe universal health care will mean equal access because of the health system's capacity constraints, PwC said.

The study said a key problem continues to be that Americans are increasingly using costly hospital emergency rooms as the first point of entry into the health system, resulting in drastic emergency room overcrowding.

According to the news release, the research found that:

  • Patients covered by Medicaid use hospital emergency rooms at twice the rate of the uninsured even though the uninsured are most often blamed. Forty-four percent of Medicaid respondents visited an emergency department in the past year compared to 20% of uninsured respondents.
  • More than half of people who went to a hospital emergency department in the past year said they went for a reason other than an emergency, for example, their doctor's office was closed or they couldn't get an appointment in an acceptable time.
  • Hospital emergency rooms have become holding tanks for mental health patients because of a shortage of mental health providers and beds. The average length of stay in the emergency department for patients in need of mental health services is double that of other patients.
  • One in four consumers and one-third of Medicaid patients said it takes more than 30 days to see a doctor. One in 10 said they've had to wait three months or longer.

PwC commissioned an online survey in April 2009 of 1,000 consumers regarding access to care in the U.S.