Consumer-Driven Healthcare: Impacts and Engaging Patients and Families

Increased patient cost-sharing has been a growing trend for decades. Yet, many patients struggle to understand or anticipate these financial obligations. This panel discussed the impacts of consumer-driven healthcare models, as well as strategies to engage patients and increase their understanding of healthcare coverage and responsibilities.



Karen Timberlake
Michael Best Strategies, Principal


Michele Erikson
Wisconsin Literacy, Inc., Executive Director 

Eileen Mallow
Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds, Director of the Office of Strategic Health Policy

David Pate
UW–Milwaukee, Associate Professor and Chair of the Social Work department                   

Justin Sydnor
Wisconsin School of Business, Associate Professor

Top Takeaways from Panelists:

  • The rise of consumerism in healthcare – meaning consumer-directed choice of health benefits or more consumer engagement in the choice of health services – is, in part, an effort to inject cost sensitivity into the overall healthcare system and to help contain the cost of healthcare.
  • Evidence shows that people are cost-sensitive, but cost transparency, especially before people need care, is an important issue.
  • Contrary to what might be expected, emergency room use is not lower in the state employee health insurance program’s high deductible health plans (HDHP). This raises concerns about people possibly delaying preventive or early-stage care, waiting until they have a crisis, and going to the emergency room. If this is the case, it is not a good use of healthcare resources.
  • Some preliminary research suggests employer-based healthcare workers can help people navigate the healthcare system in an informed way, which leads to more accessible, cost-sensitive care.
  • One practice that can help people make better healthcare decisions is access to information designed through a co-creation process. This practice involves health literacy experts, healthcare system designers, and community members working together to create consumer-friendly information.