ZocDoc just published a compelling new article and infographic pulling data from a survey they recently conducted about patient behavior.  The data put a quantitative face on what many of us have been observing anecdotally and reading in blog commentary online — namely, that patients are increasingly reluctant to see their providers, and costs and scheduling challenges are a big part of why.

One tidbit that jumped out at me, since preventive care is something I consider a win-win opportunity for practices and patients, is that 80% of patients surveyed were putting off preventive care.  Some of the key reasons ZocDoc found were the inconvenience of keeping an appointment during work hours (in fact, more than 40% said they would likely cancel because work took priority) and the inconvenience of making an appointment in the first place.

Preventive care should be increasingly valuable to patients as deductibles and co-pays have grown across all types of health plans. But many patients don’t realize that this is usually a way they can take advantage of their coverage without cost-sharing.  Many other studies have shown that patients are more confused than ever about their health plans; this puts the burden upon practices to fill in the information gap (but that also spells opportunity for practices that do so).

Are you doing all you can to engage patients and encourage them to take advantage of their preventive care benefits? Some ideas to consider:

  • Consider offering an early morning or early evening appointment option at least once per week — or even occasional Saturday appointments
  • Look into online scheduling to allow patients to book appointments without having to make a call during work hours
  • Use EMR list tools (remember them from MU?) and your portal to reach out to patients who haven’t had preventive services or are overdue
  • Put information about what’s included in preventive care — and why it’s important — on your website

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