Simplyhealth report - are we an instant health generation?
Simplyhealth report: Are we an instant health generation?
Contents 2. Introduction 3. Key findings 4. The rising cost of healthcare 5. Concern over a changing NHS 7. Online healthcare 9. Sharing personal health information 10. Methodology 11. Conclusion 11. About Simplyhealth 12. Contacts IntroductionOur healthcare needs are changing. We’re now living longer (today’s 20 year olds are three times more likely tolive to 100 than their grandparents1) and obesity levels are rising. In response, the Government is proposing thebiggest transformation of the NHS in its history. The NHS we know now will not be the NHS we know in ten yearstime.Our research examines how the NHS reforms are affecting people’s attitudes to their health. Are they worriedabout the future, the cost of looking after their health, or the threat of longer waiting times? If so, how is thisaffecting how they access healthcare?Our healthcare needs are not the only aspect that’s changing. The rapid advance of technology is transformingthe way we access health information and support. We lead busy lives, and although still very important, the localGPs surgery is no longer the only option. NHS Direct, the internet and social media all provide additional sourcesthat fit in with our lifestyles. It is now much easier to get information instantly.We assess whether online health resources can ever replace the need for face to face contact with a GP orhealthcare professional. Is the prospect of a changing NHS causing people to go elsewhere for support? Ourresearch examines these issues, and whether with new media and television health shows such as EmbarrassingBodies, people are now more willing to share personal health information away from their GP surgery.The results show that people are concerned about how the NHS will care for them in the future. The uncertaintyis causing many to use online resources, so they have more control over their own healthcare and are able to getinformation instantly. People are also comfortable sharing personal health details online if it helps them deal with ahealth problem. However, they still stop short of giving too much away unless they know they are communicatingwith a qualified healthcare professional.Our research paints a picture of modern healthcare that has changed significantly in ten years. People are usingtechnology to feed their need for knowledge and are willing to take more control over their healthcare so they havemore stability and certainty in the future.We surveyed 5,097 UK adults for our research using an online YouGov panel. The results are weighted to theprofile of the UK’s working population. Department for Work and Pensions www.dwp.gov.uk/policy/ageing-society 12
Key findings The rising cost of healthcare: Around half of the UK’s adult population are worried about their ability to pay for costs associated with looking after their and their family’s health over the next five years. Women and older people are the most concerned. Concern over a changing NHS: Half of those surveyed believe that the NHS reforms will mean they will need to wait longer to be seen. A further 45% believe that they may be denied treatment. Again, women and older respondents are more concerned. 60% of respondents would consider paying to be seen quicker. This is most true of professional workers and those who live in London and the South East. Online healthcare: The past ten years has seen an increase in the proportion of people using online health resources, notably NHS Direct and those using search engines to do their own research. The main reason for using online health resources is to determine whether a visit to a healthcare professional is essential and to check symptoms. The use of web based resources is most common amongst women, younger people and professional workers. Sharing health information: Almost eight in ten would be happy to disclose some form of personal health information online. Amongst those who would use online resources, 56% would be willing to use an online chat function. Almost six in ten agree that online advice would be useful as it fits into their day. However, only a third agree that they would prefer to use this as their main way of contacting a medical professional. This suggests online consultations are not a replacement for seeing a medical professional face to face. 3
The rising cost of healthcare The UK’s ageing population presents significant challenges for the healthcare sector. The Government’s NHS reforms are intended to address these challenges, but as the NHS changes it also affects people’s perceptions of healthcare. 51% We asked respondents to think about the costs said they were very associated with looking after their and their family’s worried, or slightly health, such as treatment, medical or dental worried about being able insurance and medicines. to afford these costs over the next five years. This suggests that people have noticed that costs are rising, and perhaps indicates a lack of confidence in an NHS that is free at the point of use. Many people also have to contend with pay freezes and the rising cost of fuel, utilities and food. This is all putting pressure on their finances and adding to their concerns. To what extent do you worry that you will not be able to afford to look after you and your family’s health over the next five years? 11% I am very worried I am very worried 9% 43% I am slightly worried I am slightly worried 39% I am not worried at all 50% 44% I am not worried at all 2% Don’t know Don’t know 2% Women Men Women are more worried about costs than men (54% compared to 48%). 18 to 24 year olds are least worried (42%), compared to 50 to 64 year olds who are most worried (58%), reflecting the impact that their life stage has. Location is also important, as Scots are least worried about the costs (37%), whereas those in the East Midlands are most worried (58%). This is perhaps due to differences in how public healthcare is funded throughout the UK.4
Concern over a changing NHSThere has been confusion about the Government’s NHS reforms, resulting in a pause in the Health and SocialCare Bill through Parliament and a public ‘listening exercise’. Despite this, it seems that people are still concernedthat the NHS will not be able to provide for them in the same way in the future.More than half (51%) believe that they’ll need to wait longer for treatment than ever before. Only 12% disagreewith this. In Northern Ireland, 70% believe they’ll need to wait longer. Women are more concerned than men (54%compared to 48%).Increased waiting times are being reported by the media, which may be fuelling concerns. Figures released bythe Department of Health in August showed that the number of people waiting more than six weeks for key NHStests, such as MRI and CT scans has almost quadrupled in one year. In June this year, there were 12,521 peoplewaiting more than six weeks for one of 15 key tests. This is significantly more than the 3,510 waiting more than sixweeks in June 20102.45% are also concerned that they may be denied the treatment they need in future. Only a fifth of people disagreewith this, a figure that drops to 9% in Northern Ireland. Again, women are more concerned than men (47%compared to 42%). 15% 15% Agree 12% ‘The changes in the ‘The changes in the Neither agree or NHS mean I may NHS mean I may be disagree 51% 20% 45% need to wait longer denied the treatment for treatment than I need’ Disagree ever before’ % 22 21% Don’t knowThere are also differences between age groups. 57% of over 65s are concerned about waiting times compared to45% of 18 to 24 year olds. 48% of over 65s are worried about being denied treatment compared to 37% of 18 to24 year olds.A national divide also exists, which reflects the way healthcare is managed across the UK. For example, 48% ofpeople in London are worried about being denied treatment compared to 39% of those in Scotland.The concerns about waiting times are causing people to think about turning to the private sector. 59% eitherstrongly agree or agree that they would consider paying to be seen privately if it meant that they were diagnosedmore quickly.2 Department of Health statistical press notice 10 August 2011: Diagnostics waiting times & activity data, monthending 30 June 2011 and Imaging and Radiodiagnostic activity, financial year 2010/11 www.dh.gov.uk 5
Affluence is a factor in this though. Manual and unskilled workers are less likely to agree than those who have managerial or professional roles (51% compared to 64%). This perhaps highlights the perceptions that people have of the cost of private medical care. Location is also a factor. The South East and London have a higher proportion of respondents stating they would pay to be seen privately (both 65%), compared to the North East (53%) and North West (55%). I would consider paying to be seen privately if it meant being diagnosed quickly Strongly agree 18% Agree somewhat 42% Neither agree nor disagree 13% Disagree somewhat 13% Strongly disagree 11% Don’t know 2% At the moment, nearly two thirds (63%) do not have access to any specific health benefits, such as private medical insurance or health cash plans. However, the fact that so many would consider paying for quicker treatment now reflects an erosion of trust in the NHS. 9% of the respondents to our research said they pay for private medical insurance 12% of the respondents have dental insurance19% of the respondents have employers that pay for private medical insurance for them 6% of the respondents have a health cash plan6
Online healthcareThe internet has brought health forums, search engines, symptom checkers and other resources that can beaccessed at the touch of a button. People now want answers to health problems instantly. Nearly half (48%) saythat the way they access and seek advice and information about a health issue has changed over the last tenyears.Rather than book a GP appointment straight away, people are more likely to turn on their computer first. The NHShas embraced technology with NHS Direct, both online and over the telephone, and this has proved to be verypopular, as 59% use it. However, 59% also use search engines such as Google to find information on a specifichealth problem. This shows they are willing to be informed by the online resources that are available, even thoughthey may not always be official and accurate sources.When accessing health advice and information, please tick which online sources youuse now that you didn’t ten years ago? Please select all that apply. 59% 20% 35% 59% 4% 16% NHS Direct Health forums Online symptom Search engine Other Not applicable checkers (and typing in a 59% 20% 35% specific health 59% 4% 16% problem)Women and younger people are more likely to use online sources, as well as professional workers.When asked what motivates them to use the internet for health information, 31% said they use it to check whetherthey actually need to see a healthcare professional. This indicates that people are conscious about bookingappointments, perhaps because they do not have enough free time. 11% who access health information onlinesay saving time is their main motivation for using the internet.People also want to understand the health problem they have, with a third using the internet to help themunderstand their symptoms. 7
What is your main motivation for accessing health information and advice online? 2% Other Anonymity - I’m too embarassed to see a 2% healthcare professional face to face To get a second opinion after seeing a 2% healthcare professional Saves time11% To check if I need to go see a healthcare 31% professional for my symptoms For more information14% post diagnosis33% To understand my symptoms The Government intends to address the public’s desire for information, by making more data available than ever before. In what it calls a ‘transparency revolution’ it plans to publish data from the NHS, such as the records of GP practices, the costs of drugs and the success of hospitals in tackling certain conditions.3 Cabinet Office www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk 38
Sharing personal health informationThe internet has provided more opportunities to find health information. However, for information to be accurateit needs to focus on the individual. Just as with a visit to the GP, people need to talk about their symptoms,their medical history and treatment to get meaningful advice. The overwhelming majority of people are willingto disclose some degree of personal information online. Less than a quarter (23%) say they wouldn’t give anyinformation at all.55% say they would be willing to give information about their symptoms and half say they would give basicinformation such as their age and gender. However, many stop short of going into more detail. Less than a quarter(23%) would give details about their medical history online.Again, age is an important factor. Younger people, who are often more comfortable communicating over theinternet, are more likely to disclose personal information. 79% of 18 to 24s say they would give informationcompared to 63% of over 65s.How willing are you or would you be to disclose personal information online (age,gender, symptoms, medical history) in order to receive more tailored health advice? I would be willing to I would be provide basic willing to give information I would be I would be I would not details about such as my willing to give willing to provide any my current age and my medical provide my personal symptoms gender history location information Don’t know55% 50% 23% 11% 23% 5%This shows that as it stands, the internet cannot replace face to face contact. However, this is likely to change inthe future as the Government is considering allowing GP consultations to take place over online services such asSkype.At the moment though the internet is predominately used as a source of information, not another form ofconsultation.38% would be willing to use social media, post a comment on a message board or join a forum. This suggeststhat they want to share information with other like minded people and value their opinions. 9
People are more comfortable with disclosing personal information if it means they can still speak to a qualified healthcare professional. More than half (56%) would be happy to have a webchat with a healthcare professional, via instant messenger. However, only 17% would use live video streaming to speak to a healthcare professional, suggesting the Government may need to convince people of its plans for online consultations. Perhaps this is because it does not offer the same time benefits. In a world where microblogging and text messaging are so important, it appears that people would prefer to use short instant messaging which does not intrude on their daily or working lives. In fact, 58% agree that they use online resources because they can fit them into their busy lives, without having to take time out to see a healthcare professional. This suggests that the relationship with GPs and other healthcare professionals is transforming in such a way that it is now the healthcare professional that has to fit in with the patient, not the other way round. It’s more of a case of ‘Doctor, your patient will see you now’. However, only a third of people believe that consulting a healthcare professional online can replace face to face contact. Which, if any, of the following methods would you be willing to use to disclose personal health information? Webchat with Webcam a healthcare Written text on with professional ie either a forum or a healthcare None of these ‘instant messenger’ message board, or professional ie live or other chat social media video streaming functions 56% 38% 17% 21% To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements? “I would prefer to consult directly with a healthcare “Using online health resources means I can fit professional about a specific health problem via looking for medical advice into my busy day, instead online services rather than face to face as this would of taking time out to see a healthcare professional” better fit with my busy lifestyle” 58% 19% 20% 3% 32% 20% 45% 3% Neither agree or Agree Disagree Don’t know disagree10
ConclusionOur research shows that people have genuine concerns about how the NHS will care for them in the future. Theyare noticing that costs are rising, such as dental treatment and prescription charges and this is affecting theirfamily budgets.They are also concerned about whether the NHS will be able to care for them if they have a serious healthproblem in the future. The threat of longer waiting times and stretched NHS budgets are eroding the trust that theyonce had. Many are now considering paying to be seen quicker, which shows the level of control and personalresponsibility that people are willing to take. Rather than solely relying on a changing NHS, they want to beproactive about their own healthcare.The numbers of people who are using online resources also demonstrates this. They’re now willing to put theirtrust in social media sites, search engines and health websites, rather than immediately seeking a GP consultation.They’re willing to take more responsibility for researching their issue and finding other sources of support andadvice. This thirst for instant information can help people make informed decisions about their healthcare. Therapid advancement of technology means that this sort of access will only increase over time.It’s clear that the availability of online resources now means that healthcare is no longer a private issue betweena person and their healthcare professional. People are more willing to share personal health information withcomplete strangers online, if it means they can find out more about their symptoms or health problem. Technologywill also play a much greater role over the next decade, as people have shown they are willing to use livewebchats and instant messaging that fits into their busy lives more easily.Access, information and interaction are now crucial when it comes to healthcare. The Government recognises thisand wants to give patients more control over their healthcare and the information to help them make decisions.Health plans provide another option for those who want to take more personal responsibility for their health.However, it’s important that insurance companies and the private sector continually evolve to meet the changingneeds of the UK population.MethodologyOur research was conducted by YouGov using an online panel. It surveyed 5,097 UK adults aged over 18between 26 and 28 July 2011. The results are weighted to the profile of the UK’s working population.About SimplyhealthWe became Simplyhealth after bringing together BCWA, HealthSure, HSA, LHF and Totally Active. We’recommitted to doing the right thing, not just the easy thing, and going the extra mile to deliver a personal serviceto our customers. In fact, we’ve been helping people access affordable healthcare for almost 140 years and that’sbecause we think health is the most important thing of all.We use our extensive range of health plans to help individuals, families and companies. These include healthcash plans, dental plans and private medical insurance. They provide cover towards check-ups, treatment andemergencies, helping people budget for the costs of expected and unexpected healthcare. Our plans currentlyhelp two million people look after their health and 11,000 businesses choose us as their healthcare provider.Our specialist Simplyhealth Independent Living centres help people get the most out of life through mobilityproducts and daily living aids. We carry out free home assessments to ensure that we spend time listening to theneeds of every customer.We care about our communities and last year donated £1.6m to health related charities and good causes. In aworld where so many people can’t be bothered, we’re proud to be the ones that can. 11
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