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The Hidden Cost of Healthcare System Complexity

July 3, 2019. It is no secret that the complex ins and outs of the US healthcare system are difficult to navigate. Not only is this an issue for patients and consumers, but it is a detrimental financial burden to the system itself. Accenture has created a literacy index based off researching the common patients knowledge about his or her healthcare. Those with low indexes have little understanding of the terms that coexist with their health care i.e., deductible, copayment, premium, and out of pocket. These holes in their knowledge often make it difficult to make decisions regarding their healthcare, such as which doctor to see, when to see them, and how much they should expect to pay.

After conducting surveys based on their curated literacy index, 52% fell in the low literacy index category. 48% of this index have college or graduate degrees, and 97% hold a high school diploma. This highlights that the issue does not solely rely on the education level of those who partake in the healthcare system, but how the system operates itself. 

Low literacy index patients are often more expensive than high literacy index patients. This is due to their higher need for customer service and possible mistakes in billing. These gaps in knowledge add up, creating a $3.4 billion dollar gap in the costs between care for a low literacy patient to a high literacy patient. It is not only time being wasted, but money and valuable care. 

In order to combat this problem, consumer service can be modified in many ways. Some of these tactics include redesigning how information is displayed to the patient, encouraging providers to educate their employees on how their insurance works, introducing lay navigators, and creating simple per-visit copayments. These tactics can not only save billions of dollars, but also add comfort and ease to a process that is unnecessarily stressful. 

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