The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped our world and how we use technology, and the healthcare industry is no exception. After turning to digital health technologies by necessity at the height of the pandemic, patients are now much more interested in adopting self-scheduling, online payments, virtual care and other digital tools, according to a 2021 survey from PwC’s strategy consulting business, Strategy&.
Summarized from a recent Phreesia webinar featuring Patrick Maher, a partner at Strategy&, and Inshita Wij, a director at Strategy&, the following are five ways that consumer expectations have shifted, along with strategies for meeting those expectations.
1. Patients expect technology to be a major part of their healthcare experience, as it is in other areas of their daily lives.
Patients expect the same convenience and personalized experience with healthcare that they are accustomed to receiving in retail, travel and other industries, Wij said. In response, healthcare leaders are investing in technologies that create a more flexible, transparent and convenient healthcare experience.
“We’re seeing technology come into the relationship with the consumer,” Wij said. “We’re seeing it used to create a much tighter connection with the consumer, enabling care teams to spend more time with their patients, to know them better and to engage with them in a more meaningful and efficient way.
2. Consumers are loyal to convenience.
Patients seek out convenience and efficiency in their medical care. They’re increasingly loyal not to a specific provider or a facility, but to the experience they receive. Even among consumers who are satisfied with their current doctor, more than half (51%) say they would be willing to switch providers, according to results from a PwC survey of more than 1,000 patients shared by Maher and Wij during the webinar. However, patient loyalty is age dependent as well, survey results showed. Younger consumers are significantly less loyal to their providers: 51% of respondents aged 18-54 said they were willing to switch doctors, while only 26% of patients aged 55 and older said they would consider looking for a new provider.
“We’re seeing this notion of the ever-increasing consumer expectations around convenience really start to play its way into the industry,” Maher said.
For the same reason, patients are interested in receiving care at locations convenient to their day-to-day activities. As an example, more than 30% of surveyed patients said they had seen providers at alternative sites like workplace clinics, retail clinics and fitness centers more than three times in the past 12 months. Healthcare organizations that can draw on the strengths of these types of settings and make it easier for patients to take care of their health are more likely to capture their loyalty.
3. Doctors and consumers are on the same page when it comes to technology.
By and large, clinicians are eager to give patients the convenience they seek. In another PwC survey, a majority of physicians said they wanted to streamline their patient interactions by making them less paper-based, more technology-driven and less dependent on phone calls and faxes. “When it comes to convenience and better technology, what consumers want is what providers want, too,” Wij says.
Both primary care and specialty physicians are looking for solutions that make their day-to-day work lives easier so that they can spend more time with their patients and serve them at the top of their license, rather than getting bogged down by administrative tasks. In the survey, physicians said it is a top priority to invest in software that streamlines payments and automates scheduling, so that they can provide a more efficient and convenient patient experience.
4. Consumers are willing to pay more for niche health services.
Consumers told PwC that they’re willing to pay up to $600 more out of pocket for personalized and on-demand health services. That’s an important consideration for healthcare organizations that could benefit from additional revenue streams amid declining reimbursement. Survey respondents said they were willing to pay the most for help with taking care of aging family members, as well as integrated offerings to manage critical illness and family planning services. They also expressed interest in niche services such as health and fitness coaching, personalized recommendations for treatments and medications and on-demand virtual access to a clinician.
During the webinar, Wij and Maher outlined three key areas of opportunity for healthcare organizations that want to capture this recent growth in consumer healthcare spending:
- Improve the consumer experience through new tools, partnerships or alliances
- Expand into broader health and wellness offerings, such as health coaching and caregiver services
- Target new consumer segments and geographies that are receptive to core services
5. Healthcare organizations should act now to mitigate the impact of staffing shortages on the patient experience.
Like many industries, healthcare has experienced significant staffing shortages. But the consequences of these staffing shortfalls can be much more serious, with the potential to cause delays in care and exacerbate staff burnout, as well as increase costs.
New ways of working that emerged during the pandemic, including remote workforces, process automation and cloud technology can help lower cost structures, Wij and Maher said. They also recommend that healthcare leaders get ahead of staff burnout by investing in workforce well-being, reducing administrative burdens and teaching employees how to use technology to improve their productivity.
“We have shortages across the board with healthcare … and we’re going to have to confront that in the long run by leveraging technology and better enabling our care teams to serve even more people in a much better way,” Maher said.