What You Should Know:
– NRC Health today released its 2021 Healthcare Consumer
Trends Report, which surveyed 2 million healthcare consumers against the
backdrop of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
– The latest report highlights the major trends that came to light last year, and how they will continue to impact the healthcare industry in 2021 and beyond – from declining brand loyalty, increased care deferment, the fast adoption of telehealth, a rise in wearable tech, and a broader focus on social media marketing.
– Hospital leaders will also find value in learning how
to recapture patient volumes lost in 2020 and how to bring more human
understanding into the care experience.
NRC Health, a provider of in-depth
customer intelligence in healthcare, today released its 2021 Healthcare Consumer Trends Report. For its
third-annual industry review, NRC Health surveyed millions of healthcare
consumers against the backdrop of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. From
declining brand loyalty, increased care deferment, the fast adoption of
telehealth, a rise in wearable tech and a broader focus on social media
marketing, NRC Health’s latest report shines a light on consumers’ evolving
preferences and behaviors related to key healthcare trends and offers insight
into how provider organizations can recapture patient volumes in 2021.
COVID-19 Accelerated the Trajectory of Consumerism in
“It cannot be overstated just how dramatically COVID-19 has accelerated the trajectory of consumerism in healthcare,” said Helen Hrdy, Chief Growth Officer, NRC Health. “The onus falls on healthcare leaders to move the industry forward by ensuring patient safety, building consumer trust and bringing more human understanding into every care experience. Those organizations that are willing and able to evolve with the times will be best-positioned for success in the aftermath of COVID-19.”
“For years, consumers have made consistent appeals for autonomy, convenience, and freedom of choice,” said Hrdy. “As unsettling as it’s been, COVID-19 has brought some of these consumerist-driven measures to the forefront. While healthcare leaders have proven they can be nimble and adaptable, even in the face of crisis, consumers want a partnership with their providers and a care experience that exceeds their expectations moving forward. But only with the right data and the right understanding, can we ensure that healthcare is capable of adapting.”
4 Key Healthcare Consumerism Trends to Know in 2021
1. Consumers favor convenience, provider rapport over brand loyalty
Consumer loyalty is a major driver of health system
profitability, but unfortunately for hospitals and health systems, overall
brand preference among healthcare consumers continues to decline, from 31% in
2018 to 36% in 2020. More than a third of consumers expressed no particular
preference for a healthcare brand, when compared against independent
practitioners, and 62% anticipate their brand preferences to change after the
Ironically, providers themselves are in the best position to
earn back consumer trust. An analysis from NRC Health’s Real-time Feedback
database shows that consumers report an overwhelming fondness for their
providers, especially since the outbreak began. To capitalize on that goodwill
and bring patients back into the healthcare fold, all evidence points to
convenience. Almost half of consumers say a convenient location is the number
one factor in their healthcare decision-making.
2. Patient deferment rates will continue to rise
Prior to the pandemic, healthcare deferral rates were
approaching a five-year low. But with consumer anxiety at an all-time high due
to the pandemic, those rates rose significantly in 2020, up from 22.4% at the
end of March to 30.4% by the end of June. Forty percent of patients who delayed
care in 2020 cited the coronavirus as the reason, while 17.2% said they prefer
to manage their care on their own for now.
Delaying care can have a number of repercussions, from
threatening hospital revenue streams in the near term to causing far more
serious outcomes for consumers in the long term. Patients 75 and older
accounted for nearly 68% of all care delays, revealing a huge challenge for
health systems as they try to recruit this generation back into regular care.
3. Future of care delivery looks
uncertain after rapid telehealth adoption
Lagging in widespread adoption for years, the pandemic fast
tracked virtual care delivery from optional luxury to operational necessity.
Fortunately, consumers have been receptive to the shift, with an overwhelming
92% reporting positive telehealth experiences during this time. However, only
27% of consumers say they will consider telehealth as a potential alternative
for future visits, underscoring what is still an uncertain future for virtual
health and overall care delivery beyond the pandemic. Prioritizing provider
time and attentiveness, as well as financial transparency, will be key as
healthcare organizations work to cultivate effective telehealth practices long
4. Patients and providers still disconnected over digital
may have brought healthcare into consumers’ homes, but it is by no means the
only avenue to reach customers outside of the healthcare facility. By and
large, consumers are enthusiastic about digital innovations that bring them
closer to their provider — even as these innovations are underutilized by
tech, for example, has become a huge part of the average consumer’s daily
life in regards to how they manage their health and wellness from home. Yet
only 50% of providers are asking about wearable tech data during appointments,
despite the fact that 57% of consumers believe this data would be useful in
conversations with their healthcare providers.
Social media is another under-used digital venue for patient
interaction. Even though 72% of Americans have some kind of social media
profile, many health systems have not yet found an optimal strategy for
engagement. And while currently, only 23% of Internet users are actively
seeking health information on social media, that number is likely to soon rise
as 70% percent of consumers expressed interest in getting healthcare
information via social channels. Another 62% said they trust the health information
they get on social media, so long as it comes directly from their provider.
This was especially true during the worst of the pandemic, when consumers
trusted news from local healthcare organizations more than any other sources.