Executive Summary

The shift to patient-centered care (consumerism) is well underway in U.S. hospitals today. However, in most American households, it is not consumers in general, but women in particular, who are responsible for healthcare for themselves and their families.

Through a nationally representative study of more than 3,000 women who manage their family’s healthcare, Willow Research examined their experiences navigating the healthcare system in the United States: what is working well for them, where there are difficulties, and what they need to keep themselves and their families healthy.

The research was conducted from January 2020 through August 2020, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and reveals the challenges these women face as they try to navigate an often-confusing system during a period of crisis. Women tell us the help they want and need to keep their families afloat, both now and in the future.

Key Points:

In most American households, women are the ones who are responsible for healthcare for themselves and their families. From this study, we learned:

  • 46% feel “stressed out and frustrated” by the healthcare system.
  • 43% prioritize their family’s healthcare over their own.
  • 37% have experienced a medical billing issue in the past year alone.
  • 74% say that medical care is too expensive.
  • 50% have at least one person in the household with a chronic condition.
  • More than half of households (57%) have at least some difficulty paying for healthcare.

How Providers Can Help:

As we found in our recent study of hospital executives,[1] hospitals are far along in many patient-centered care initiatives. For example, hospitals are emphasizing customer service and satisfaction, establishing coordinated care teams, and offering digital healthcare tools like patient portals and telehealth — tools that consumers appreciate and are adopting.

However, our current study of female healthcare decision-makers finds that, to be truly consumer-centric, hospitals really need to address the perennial challenges around cost transparency, migrate toward consolidating billing statements, and generate billing statements with fewer errors that are easier to understand. Additionally, greater education is needed around patient financing options, and households with limited resources will require more financial assistance to pay their medical bills. Finally, women — and especially moms — struggle with the logistics of making it to healthcare appointments, and they would like to see expanded appointment hours and the ability to schedule multiple visits in a single day.

  • Greater transparency around costs and coverage.
  • Financial education around healthcare financial tools.
  • Financial support for healthcare costs.
  • More flexibility from providers.

Success in addressing these four needs would be welcomed across the board, but for the most precarious households, solutions aimed at greater flexibility and transparency may not be sufficient. The aftermath of the pandemic is likely to leave even more in need of financial education and assistance.

Provider Edition: Head Above Water