Increased health concerns surrounding COVID-19 have altered consumer behavior across the board and every industry has felt the impact—including healthcare. With so much uncertainty still at play, patients are more hesitant to seek care as they redefine what “essential” and “non-essential” services mean to them.
To understand how these expectations have changed amid the pandemic and what providers can do to reestablish patient trust, we turned to SMG’s customized market intelligence tool BrandGeek® and collected feedback from more than 5,200 respondents. Through this proprietary research, we’ve identified three trends impacting the healthcare industry and how providers can adjust.
1. 1 in 3 respondents are less likely to seek routine care
While most people understand how important preventative care is to their overall health, many are opting to skip those visits this year. When asked if they would see a provider for a routine service, 37% said they were less likely to see a provider for a routine service now vs. before the pandemic.
Much of this stems from fear of exposure. More than half of respondents (52%) said they were concerned about catching the coronavirus during a healthcare visit.
To ease those concerns and encourage continued preventive care, providers need to adjust day-to-day operations and clearly communicate new protocols to patients. The next trend demonstrates where providers should prioritize those efforts and ways to make the greatest impact.
2. Providers must elevate safety measures + communicate their efforts
A complete overhaul of operational procedures can seem overwhelming, but the good news is small changes can make a big difference. We asked respondents to select which actions would make them feel more comfortable visiting their healthcare providers. Here are the top responses:
In addition to these efforts, providers have a responsibility to keep their patients informed—not just on operational protocols but on all updates regarding the pandemic. Unfortunately, we discovered most people are not getting this from their provider or healthcare system.
When asked how they stay updated on health information surrounding COVID-19, most respondents said they self-inform using local news (55%), national news (42%), social media (41%), and their own internet research (33%). Primary care doctor and hospital/healthcare system were among the lowest sources on the list (9%). This points to a real opportunity for providers to gain the trust of patients by being a source of knowledgeable (and accurate) information in such an uncertain time.
3. While telehealth awareness is high, usage is less than 50%
Even with extra measures in place to protect their health and safety, some patients are still not comfortable with in-person visits. Organizations with a viable telehealth option are able to provide these patients with an alternative to skipping the visit all together.
But telehealth remains an untapped opportunity for much of the industry. Our research shows that while 88% of respondents are aware of telehealth options and 75% say they would consider using the service, only 46% have used telehealth in the last year.
Again, the problem lies in a lack of communication. Only 54% of respondents feel their provider has given them enough information about telehealth services. And 3 out of the top 4 barriers to using telehealth involve a lack of education—with patients worried about quality of care, security breaches, or receiving an improper diagnosis. The onus is on providers to ensure their patients understand that telehealth services can be an effective and safe option.
Healthcare organizations have an obligation to stay ahead of patient concerns and make the necessary adjustments to establish and maintain their trust. For more on how to navigate evolving patient and employee expectations and drive loyalty, download our interactive Experience Management Playbook for healthcare.
As VP of Customer Engagement – Healthcare, Brett Brende collaborates with internal patient experience (PX) management and product development teams to grow SMG’s healthcare portfolio. He takes a client-centric approach to his work, with a focus on providing the best possible program to potential clients to help them elevate the patient experience and meet patient needs.