Discover leading consumer trends in healthcare and key areas that will transform the industry
The COVID-19 pandemic pushed many clinics and healthcare providers to quickly adopt new practices for serving patients. Without adequate time to help their patients adjust to these new practices, many providers encountered varying levels of patient insecurity, as people grappled with learning new technology or experienced doubt over whether a virtual appointment could provide the same benefits as an in-person visit.
Just as the Affordable Care Act ushered in a wave of new consumer trends in healthcare, COVID-19 fast-tracked new strategies and innovations for providing health services and improving doctor-patient relationships. As the digitization of health services continues to change the way care is delivered, we look to the new trends being adopted in 2021 to further enhance medical care both remotely and in-person.
Fears over exposure to COVID-19 in healthcare facilities prompted many people to stay home and delay their care while an increased percentage opted to try virtual appointments. At the height of the pandemic, more than 40% of American adults reported avoiding in-person care because of concerns about being exposed to the coronavirus. For those who tried telehealth, many of these appointments were for routine checkups, metal health services, and post-surgical monitoring.
While telehealth adoption grew as a matter of necessity, now many patients choose virtual visits for convenience. Patients save time by not having to get to the clinic and sit in a waiting room, which can often have a negative impact on the doctor-patient relationship if the wait drags on too long. Instead of returning to normalcy as the pandemic reaches its end, it’s now assumed that telehealth will continue to grow in popularity as more patients learn to trust its efficacy and appreciate the flexibility it provides.
Despite the success of telemedicine in providing an alternative to in-person visits, there is still work to be done in creating infrastructure that can support broader adoption. PwC’s Health Research Institute reported 66% of Black consumers, 65% of Latinx consumers, and 49% of white consumers experienced issues during a virtual healthcare visit. While telehealth provides access to people who struggle with in-person visits, there is still a significant gap in the availability of reliable technology, which could act as a deterrent among underprivileged and older patient groups.
New digital tools offer new opportunities for improved doctor-patient relationships. Doctors routinely face enormous workloads and administrative tasks, which drive down the amount of face-to-face time with patients. Many digital platforms for healthcare are making a move toward automations and more user-friendly platforms, giving time back to doctors for providing more personalized care. Additionally, new digitized scheduling practices help reduce the number of appointment cancellations, which are often a pain point for many physicians and can impede the doctor-patient relationship.
Some of the other trends improving the doctor-patient relationship involve building trust between consumers and their healthcare providers. Issues like cost transparency, in which both patients and providers have more information surrounding the costs associated with visits, medications, and procedures, help to establish greater confidence between the parties. Additionally, the acknowledgment of and further investment in social determinants of health (SDoH) are becoming instrumental in building stronger bonds of trust between underprivileged communities and their healthcare providers.
Quality of Care
Ultimately, what seems to be driving the acceptance of these new trends is the quality of care patients stand to gain. In a recent Martec Group survey of patients treated at Hurley Medical Center, recently named the #1 Smart Hospital in Michigan by Newsweek Magazine, 57% of respondents cited quality of care as their main purpose for visiting Hurley.
Even as telemedicine continues to expand its capabilities and emerging consumer trends in healthcare continue to present new opportunities for improving relationships, the challenge of enhancing communications between healthcare providers and patients remains to be met. Healthcare is a deeply personal issue for most people, which makes consumer decision-making an emotional journey that cannot be assuaged with statistics and technology alone. Healthcare providers must continue asking questions about patient concerns regarding the quality of care they’re receiving both at-home and in-person. Without that, patients may continue to avoid care and providers may be left with fewer patients, fewer return visits, and more adverse outcomes.
When it comes to consumer trends in healthcare and consumer decision-making in healthcare, the leading takeaway is do not leave consumers in the dark. Healthcare providers need to understand their community’s unique consumer segments, personalize communications, and promote key differentiators. The Martec Group can support healthcare providers with each of these aspects through market research. To learn more, please contact us.