In recent months, we've noticed that one of the busiest areas of Private Healthcare UK is the content that we provide for patients who are seeking to "go private" for diagnostic imaging, such as CT and MRI scans.
In the last quarter:
- The visitor traffic to our diagnostic imaging content has increased by 58%.
- Patient enquiries for private MRI scans have gone up by 40%.
- Patient enquiries for private CT scans have gone up by 14%.
So, what's driving this?
There are probably two key factors (in addition to the underlying demand for healthcare i.e. ageing population = more people needing more scans).
NHS under pressure
Much of the focus on the NHS is on the waiting times for referral to treatment. We know that the NHS is under pressure; the latest statistics from NHS England aren't encouraging. According to the September 2016 figures, just over three-quarters (77 per cent) of admitted hospital patients started treatment within 18 weeks - a 9% drop on June 2015.
Underlying this increase in waiting times for referral to treatment, is a similar trend in the waiting time for diagnostics. Here's the latest comparative data on waiting times for imaging from the NHS England Diagnostics Waiting Times and Activity Statistics.
Number of patients waiting for imaging
So, a year on year increase of 43% in the patients waiting to get their problem diagnosed, and a 170% increase in those waiting for more than 13 weeks.
For most patients, knowing what the problem may be is very important... and they are not prepared to wait to find out. So, some shortcut the NHS system by opting for a private scan, and then, perhaps, return to the NHS treatment route.
Price transparency... and the internet
In the times "before the internet" and "before the CMA report", it wasn't easy to find out what it costs to go private. But in the last year or so, we've seen a radical change.
Type "private MRI scan" into Google and you'll see something like this, at the top of the "natural" search engine results.
What Google is doing is taking data from a reputable source (in this case, our Private Healthcare UK Cost Comparison section), and presenting it to the searching patient in a similar way that you might see comparative price results, if you were searching for "apple iphone 6s".
The data in our cost comparisons are gathered on a regular basis from healthcare providers, collated and then published on Private Healthcare UK and in our annual Private Healthcare UK Self-Pay Market Study.
Good news for self pay?
Good news for patients, we believe, and we hope, for those hospitals and clinics that are seeking to grow their self-pay business whether it be for surgery or diagnostics. 2016 has seen the growth of a mixed economy in UK healthcare. The lines between the private healthcare sector and the NHS will become even more blurred in 2017.