Health care consumers are becoming savvier about selecting physicians and hospitals and are interested in exploring their options for health coverage, according to results of a recent survey. As part of a new report, PwC's Health Research Institute polled consumers about several topics and found that they embrace technology that improves their care, but remain concerned about the privacy of their medical data when accessed on mobile devices. Key findings:

  • Digital communication is gaining traction. More than a quarter of consumers have received communication from caregivers via email or text messages, with most satisfied with the experience.
  • Data privacy concerns persist, as access to medical data expands. Seventy-three percent of customers are either very or somewhat concerned about the privacy of their medical information if providers were able to access it on their mobile devices.
  • There's more evidence on the impact of social media on health care. More than half of consumers read reviews of health care providers online, with doctors and hospitals being the most viewed; this is heavily driven by younger consumers.
  • Americans view physicians as the best hope for the nation's health system. Almost 60 percent of respondents ranked physicians as first, second or third in terms of their ability to improve the nation's health system ahead of government, consumer groups, hospitals, insurance companies, employers or pharmaceutical companies.
  • Consumers are warming up to new ways of buying insurance.Individuals are more likely to buy it from nontraditional sources such as a retail store than they were in 2011, increasing from 18 to 23 percent.
  • Knowledge gaps exist about health insurance exchanges. Although they have been a big topic within the industry, one-third of consumers don't know enough about the new marketplaces to assess whether they will make it easier to find and buy coverage.
  • Skepticism about the value of mergers and acquisitions is rising. Forty-seven percent of consumers surveyed believe costs would increase if their local hospital were acquired and 56 percent would expect quality to remain stagnant, up from 31 percent and 22 percent, respectively, in 2011.

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