Consumers prize convenience, self-service when seeking care online, survey shows

With most patients now doing their own web research to determine where they’ll receive care and treatment, the onus is on providers to make their online experience as smooth and well-developed as possible if they hope to maintain a competitive advantage.

Or so suggest the findings of a new report, the third annual study of its kind, from Kyruus, the developer of patient access and provider analytics platforms.

Healthcare consumers have always been web-savvy, of course, but in its 2019 Patient Access Journey Report, Kyruus finds some interesting new developments with regard to the way patients are searching.

Of the 1,000 consumers surveyed – ages 18 to 65 or older, and a roughly equal mix of privately insured, Medicare and Medicaid patients – all had looked over the past two years for a new healthcare provider.

While more than half perform online research to find providers that are right for them, for instance, more than 19% of those polled say they start their search by heading directly to a health system’s website. In 2017, that number was just 6%. Forty-three percent visit the provider website at some point during the search process.

Among other findings from the report, while 32 percent of patients found primary care providers on their own, PCP referrals are still the chief way they’re finding specialists (although that number has shrunk a bit, from 45% to 40%, as self research for specialty care gets more common).

Healthcare consumers still mostly want book appointments by phone. But more and more are  scheduling online: one in three of those polled in fact. In 2017, only one in four did.

Patients have also become much more open to seeking care in different types of venues. They noted that speed and convenience are among the key drivers behind their decisions to seek care at alternative sites, such as urgent care (44%) and retail clinics (39%).

Interestingly, one in three said they’d be willing to switch providers in favor of health systems that offer virtual visits. (That’s in line with the findings of another recent report that found an increasing consumer comfort level with telehealth and remote monitoring.)

Far and away, however, the deciding factors that might give one provider an edge over its cross-town competitor are the ones you’d expect, insurance coverage and clinical quality. Indeed, 91% of those polled said it was extremely or very important for their health plan to offer coverage of a given health system; 88% weighed clinical expertise as a key must-have.

Still, as healthcare consumers become more educated, with more online resources at their fingertips to help them make educated decisions – and especially as they have now become accustomed to the well-tended user experience of consumer-facing websites and mobile devices – it’s up to healthcare providers to meet their expectations with regard to digital patient experience and, beyond that, more seamless data exchange, if they hope to remain competitive.

As one industry expert from Deloitte noted earlier this year, not too many people are particularly thrilled with the healthcare experiences on offer nowadays; as a result, “there are a ton of non-traditional players who are highly motivated to get into this business and disrupt it.”

Or, as Cleveland Clinic Chief Experience Officer Adrienne Boissy has explained it, a bit more succinctly: “The Amazons and Apples of the world have mastered service, and they are coming for us.”

“The trends emerging from the patient access survey underscore the growth of consumerism in healthcare and the need for health systems to deliver the convenience that today’s consumers demand,” said Kyruus CEO Graham Gardner in a statement. “While care options are multiplying, consumers appear to be placing a premium on health system brands that can streamline access across a coordinated experience.”

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: [email protected]

Healthcare IT News is a publication of HIMSS Media.

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