Digital hospital company highlights people's lack of confidence in accessing UK private health care
A ‘digital hospital’ company based in London and Berlin said today (27 April) has suggested that patients need more help to negotiate the healthcare system – whether they are paying directly for treatments or not.
Releasing the results of survey conducted in March among 2,000 adults in the UK, Medbelle said that 70 per cent of people aged from 18-34 years would consider using private or self-paid healthcare. The fact that only a third of all those surveyed would rule this option out suggests that Britons’ acceptance of private healthcare is greater than is generally believed, it suggests.
Medbelle, which was created in 2016, aims to use technology and individualised support to provide a ‘more streamlined experience’ for patients and clinicians, with efficiencies making its prices more ‘competitive and transparent’. It argues that many people lack confidence about paying for healthcare because of its ‘complexity’ and suggests that the sector needs to do more to help them.
Survey: patients need 'more support'
The survey, conducted by Opinium on behalf of Medbelle, found that one adult in five (21 per cent) had already paid directly for health care for themselves or others, while 17 per cent had private health insurance.
About a third (36 per cent) of respondents said they would feel confident about whether they had been offered a fair price for private treatment, while slightly more (42 per cent) felt they would know where to look for a surgeon.
Patients will have different motivations for considering paying directly for their health care. What’s important is that however health care is provided, it is done so with a minimum of stress and delays [Leander de Laporte]
Medbelle chief executive Leander de Laporte said: ‘What this survey makes clear is that all patients need more support as they negotiate the healthcare system, whether they are paying directly or not.'
He added: ‘Although self-pay health care is likely to be quicker, too many patients still feel overwhelmed about how the system works. Much more needs to be done to provide a more streamlined and joined-up service – partly by embracing digitalisation, which has revolutionised many industries but had little impact on health care so far.
‘Patients will have different motivations for considering paying directly for their health care. What’s important is that however health care is provided, it is done so with a minimum of stress and delays for patients.’
'Resigned' to long NHS waiting lists
Many survey respondents appeared to be resigned to facing lengthy waits for NHS treatment, saying they would delay seeking treatment if they were injured. One respondent in seven (14 per cent) would expect to wait more than a year in discomfort after being referred for hip or knee surgery.
One respondent in seven aged over 55 said they would not seek medical treatment for a hip or knee injury unless it started to cause them ‘significant’ pain or prevented them from working. More than a quarter of all respondents (27 per cent) said they would only seek care if the injury lasted more than a month.
Although older adults were more pessimistic about waiting times than others, they were also far less likely to consider paying for health care, with almost half (48 per cent) saying they would not consider it, compared with just 16 per cent of 18-34-year-olds. Overall, more than half of the respondents said they had either paid directly for health care in the past, had private health insurance, or would consider paying for health care in the future.
Despite an apparent willingness to pay for health care, fewer than one respondent in five said they felt ‘very confident’ about the following aspects of paying for treatment themselves
- knowing where to look for a doctor or surgeon (14%)
- organising aftercare such as physiotherapy (15%)
- knowing they are being offered a fair price for the procedure (12%)
- choosing the best performing hospital or surgeon (14%)
- arranging logistics such as invoices (17%)
- knowing who to ask for advice or support about care (15%)
Medbelle says it is meeting a demand from patients who would otherwise have to navigate the private healthcare system on their own. The ‘digital hospital’ it provides brings together the fragmented components of this system and coordinates the patient journey, it adds.
Patients can book 45-minute physiotherapy sessions (online assessments and follow-ups) with Medbelle for £45.
To find out more about Medbelle click
Author: Ian A McMillan