by Mallory Hackett, Associate Editor
Consumers are more engaged in their healthcare, are interacting with technology more for their health and many are willing to share their data as a result of COVID-19, according to two Deloitte consumer surveys.
The results come from the Deloitte 2020 Survey of U.S. Health Care Consumers that included 4,522 responses between February 24 and March 14, and the Health Care Consumer Response to COVID-19 Survey that included 1,510 responses from mid-April to early May.
Results from the survey indicate that consumers are tracking their health conditions, using data to make decisions and are assessing and wanting ownership of their medical records.
The survey showed that because consumers are more engaged with their health, they are becoming more likely to speak up when they disagree with their doctor.
In early 2020, 51% of respondents said they were very or extremely likely to tell their doctors when they disagree with them. Baby boomers and seniors were the most likely to tell their doctor when they disagreed, with 57% and 63% respectively saying they were very or extremely likely to do so.
Consumers are increasingly using technology to manage their health, track fitness and order prescriptions, according to the survey. .Forty-two percent said they use technology to measure their fitness and 28% said they monitor health metrics like blood sugar and breathing function.
The number of people using virtual doctor visits rose from 15% to 19% from 2019 to early 2020; this jumped to 28% in April 2020. A majority (80%) of those who have had a virtual visit said they would choose to have another.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers feel more comfortable sharing their health data, the survey shows. Seventy-one percent said they are willing to share their personal health information with their health insurance company, 73% would share it with a local health system or hospital and 53% said they would share their data with a healthcare provider.
Despite using technology more than before, consumers still say they want to have a personalized physician-patient relationship. The survey results indicate that patients desire a provider who listens, shows they care, takes their time and communicates with them.
WHAT'S THE IMPACT: FOR HEALTHCARE ORGANIZATIONS
Along with the survey results, Deloitte offered advice for healthcare organizations on how to adjust their services to match the preferences of consumers.
One suggestion is to launch more digital health technology, such as virtual visits.
"With healthcare consumers now more willing to adopt tools and share data and adopt virtual visits, new digital tools can play an important role in the future of care--from monitoring a person's health to helping individuals get access to more convenient care, to giving caregivers peace of mind, and helping older adults remain in their homes rather than move to institutional care," the report said.
If organizations do choose to adopt new technology, the report said "adequate interoperability" is necessary.
COVID-19 has exacerbated many health disparities, especially those created by race, according to the report. However, organizations – particularly those focused on Medicaid and dual eligibles – can address disparities by extending access to healthcare.
"[Organizations] should consider creating more access points, potentially staffed by care extenders, deep into communities that address the drivers of health, enabling better access to traditional care as well as access to food, educational resources, connections to other social services agencies, and information," the report said.
Following what respondents said about wanting to have a personal physician-patient relationship, Deloitte recommended organizations show reliability, transparency and empathy when conducting operations to build consumer trust.
THE LARGER TREND
Deloitte has conducted its survey of U.S. healthcare consumers since 2008.
Other recent surveys of healthcare consumers, such as one from the Alliance of Community Health Plans and AMCP, conducted by Leede Research, showed that 72% have dramatically changed their use of traditional healthcare services, with many delaying in-person care and embracing virtual care.
These changes in how people are interacting with the health industry have led to serious financial struggles among health systems. In fact, the American Hospital Association estimates a financial impact of $202.6 billion in losses for America's hospitals and health systems, or an average of $50.7 billion per month between March and June of this year.
Stakeholders have shared that the key to health systems' financial recovery is being flexible to changes, embracing technology and prioritizing positive patient engagements.