2021 has arguably been the year of digital healthcare, from the explosion in pandemic-induced telehealth adoption to rising consumer expectations for digital healthcare experiences.
A new survey released today by software company Redpoint Global sheds light on the nature of these changing expectations and how consumers want to interact with their healthcare providers, especially in light of the pandemic.
A majority (65%) of consumers said they had used telehealth during the pandemic and 34% said they planned to continue doing so.
This result is in line with a recent Press Ganey consumer survey which showed that a third of patients used telehealth, which is a 338% increase since 2019.
Press Ganey’s results also revealed that the availability of telehealth options influences consumer choice and satisfaction with providers. More than a fifth (22%) of consumers said the availability of telehealth would be a factor in their willingness to give a provider a five star (top quality) rating. Almost as many (18%) said the lack of telehealth availability would deter them from making an appointment in the first place.
But consumers’ expectations for digital health care go far beyond their ability or not to use telehealth.
The Redpoint Global survey of 1,000 people shows that consumers overwhelmingly prefer to interact with their healthcare providers digitally and have increasingly high expectations for the quality of those interactions.
Eighty percent of those surveyed said they preferred to use digital communications with their healthcare providers, such as online messaging or virtual appointments, at least occasionally, including 44% of consumers who primarily or always prefer to use digital communications.
In particular, 43% of those surveyed said they wanted to digitally engage with their healthcare providers before, during and after visits. Most (62%) used online messaging platforms and found them useful and 29% said they used online messaging to communicate with their provider outside of traditional office hours.
Digital communications don’t just have to be available. They must also be good.
Forty-three percent of consumers said they expected their providers to respond quickly to online messages, and 36% said they expected their provider’s online communications to match their in-person experiences online. terms of relevance and consistency. For 7% of respondents, when there is a mismatch between digital and in-person experiences, this is the most frustrating aspect of communicating with their provider.
These communications can influence the choice of suppliers by consumers.
Forty-one percent of consumers said the ability to communicate with their supplier in the way they prefer would influence their choice to view that supplier. For 26% of those surveyed, the regularity with which a provider engages with them on web, mobile, SMS, email and telephone channels would be the most important factor for them in choosing that provider. Another 11% said the most important factor in choosing a provider is how easily they are contacted through messaging platforms.
Forty-four percent of consumers surveyed said they expected their suppliers to contact them proactively and 15% said this type of proactivity would make them more likely to choose a particular supplier.
Younger, more affluent consumers were more likely to want digital communications first and have a lower tolerance for inconsistent or bad digital experiences.
According to John Nash, director of marketing and strategy at Redpoint Global, healthcare organizations, from health insurers to providers to retail pharmacies, are embracing personalized communications with customers through online channels, by phone and in person. He says his company conducted the survey to examine how the pandemic may affect these trends.
âThe pandemic has raised the expectations of healthcare consumers and they want a much better experience, especially more options for healthcare outside of the hospital,â [such as] digital, phone, retail, âNash said. âData shows that consumers are now willing to leave a vendor for poor experiences, putting more pressure on the industry to improve their game around a holistic customer experience. “
Yet, as consumer expectations rise, not everyone is happy with their current digital experiences.
Almost a quarter (24%) of consumers said they had not used any digital communication with providers during the pandemic and 15% of consumers said their healthcare provider did not offer options coherent digital communications.
Some consumers are completely wary of digital communications. Almost one in five (17%) said they believe using digital healthcare puts their personal data at higher risk and 9% said they don’t believe their health data is stored securely .
While 43% of consumers said they think healthcare providers do a better job of delivering personalized experiences across all channels than other industries, the rest believed other industries were doing it better. For example, 28% said retailers and 27% said banks and financial institutions offer better personalized experiences across all channels than healthcare organizations.
âVirtually every industry is going through this transformation of using digital channels to improve the customer experience,â said Nash. âSome have just invested in the core technology to deliver a personalized, consistent experience across channels, in real time, longer than healthcare. “
Although healthcare lags behind other industries, the stakes in healthcare are much higher, according to Nash. It encourages consumers themselves to express their preferences.
“Consumers [are] demanding more from their suppliers and are increasingly looking for those who can meet their needs, âsaid Nash. âConsumers should infer from this that they’re not the only ones wanting more personalization and less friction in their healthcare experiences, and some healthcare organizations are rising up to meet their changing needs. “