Survey: Technology Helps Americans With Health Benefits Prepare for Open Enrollment

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MINNETONKA, Minn.—According to a new UnitedHealthcare survey, an unprecedented number of Americans with health benefits say they are prepared for open enrollment, while an increasing number of people are using online resources to research health symptoms and comparison shop for care. These are among the findings from the third-annual UnitedHealthcare Consumer Sentiment Survey, which examines Americans’ attitudes and opinions about multiple areas of health care, including open enrollment preparedness, technology trends and quality and cost transparency.

With respect to eye health, 39 percent of respondents said the extended use of smartphones, tablets or computers had caused them to experience symptoms associated with digital eye strain, including sore or dry eyes, headache, or sore neck, shoulder or back, according to the announcement. Among people experiencing this, 55 percent said they responded by stopping or limiting their use of digital devices; 14 percent said they started using blue-light blocking technology for either their device or eyewear; and 28 percent said they made no changes.

Many Americans with health benefits affirmed the importance of ancillary benefits, such as vision and dental plans, according to last week’s announcement. Most (80 percent) said having vision and dental benefit options is “important” during open enrollment. Full-time employees showed even more interest, with 85 percent of those respondents saying vision and dental coverage is important. That’s likely because a large percentage of people recognize the link between oral and overall health: 85 percent of survey respondents correctly recognized that oral health can affect overall health, including 53 percent saying the link was “significant.”

Other key findings from the survey, according to an announcement late last week, include:

• More Americans are turning to technology to access health information and care. A growing number (43 percent) said they would be likely to use telemedicine in the future to access care, a 6 percentage point increase from 2016. Meanwhile, a survey-record 36 percent of respondents said they had used the internet or mobile apps to comparison shop for health care during the past year, with Millennials the most likely to do so (51 percent).

• Yet using the Internet to research health issues can cause anxiety for some: Most respondents (68 percent) said they had used an internet search engine to research a potential health issue or symptom. Among those, 29 percent said doing so increased their anxiety about the potential health issue, highlighting the need for people to have access to resources such as 24/7 nurse support and virtual visits. Meanwhile, 23 percent of people who research health issues or symptoms online said doing so decreased their anxiety, while 49 percent reported no change.

• Most people with health benefits say they are prepared for open enrollment. More than three-quarters (77 percent) said they are prepared for open enrollment, while 20 percent said they are unprepared. Those employed full-time are even more confident (82 percent said they are prepared), while Millennials were less certain (69 percent said they are prepared).

“This survey shows people are embracing technology as an important resource to improve their health and more effectively navigate the health system,” Rebecca Madsen, chief consumer officer of UnitedHealthcare, said in the announcement. “By creating resources to help simplify the health system and provide more effective clinical interventions, UnitedHealthcare is responding to people’s needs on their health care journeys, and we hope this data is helpful to others involved in supporting the health of all Americans.”

For complete survey results, click here.