How Patient Expectations Are Changing Digital Healthcare
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How Patient Expectations Are Changing Digital Healthcare

There have always been plenty of good reasons to apply digital transformation to healthcare, but COVID-19, for better or worse, forced the entire ecosystem to move full-speed into the digital future of healthcare. Little more than 1% of doctor visits were conducted virtually before COVID-19, according to data from Cigna. Now, virtual visits make up nearly 25% of visits, with 58% of Americans saying they are comfortable with virtual consultations replacing in-person visits. 

Before COVID-19, digital health initiatives had largely stalled; however, out of sheer necessity, healthcare systems are more willing to innovate and address the key factors that have always driven digital transformation in the healthcare arena:

  • cost 
  • accessibility 
  • customer care

With these drivers in mind, it’s no surprise that Cigna’s research shows these key factors are also key to patients’ willingness to adopt virtual care. Respondents said they prefer when virtual is more convenient (47%), decreases costs (44%), allows for free virtual follow-ups (37%), or enables long-distance care when away from home (35%). However, there’s one more thing driving innovation: customer expectations. 

Why healthcare consumers expect top-notch digital experiences

Patients are also consumers — and they exist in the same increasingly digital world as the rest of us. From shopping on Amazon to posting on TikTok, healthcare consumers have come to expect a certain level of user experience. In fact, 60% of them expect their digital healthcare experience to mirror that of retail, according to Guidehouse

These expectations coincide with an increased willingness to participate in digital health initiatives, creating a perfect storm of conditions to fuel the future of digital health. According to Accenture, not only are 57% of consumers open to remote monitoring of ongoing health issues through at-home devices, but 50% of people who use a fitness or monitoring device are already sharing data from it with their doctors. Surprisingly, that 50% of people tend to be at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to health. Deloitte says 62% of people in excellent health and 75% of people with difficult chronic diseases share their info with clinicians. 

Patients are ready, and clinicians have seen over the past couple of years the real value and improved outcomes for patients. The real challenge is in providing the level of experience patients have come to expect.

A survey from Dynata talked to more than 1,000 U.S. consumers and found 80% of people prefer to use digital channels to communicate with healthcare providers and brands at least some of the time. This includes online messaging, virtual appointments, and texts. Another 44% prefer digital communications the majority of the time. In fact, the “ability to communicate in a timely and consistent manner” is so important to respondents that 66% would choose a provider based on this. Despite the clarity around patient wants and needs, 57% percent of respondents “think retailers or financial services do a better job at providing personalized omnichannel experiences than healthcare.”

Accenture reports that 50% of consumers say that one bad digital experience with a healthcare provider ruins the entire experience with that provider. So keep in mind that when it comes to digital healthcare experiences, providers are not just competing with other clinicians — user expectations are set by the digital experiences they have all day, every day. 

The stakes are high for digital healthcare

While giving patients what they want is important, there is more at stake than patient reviews. Healthcare outcomes are very clearly impacted by digital initiatives. For instance, Propeller Health says daily adherence to their medications is 34% to 38% higher for patients who get smartphone notifications. 

A UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center study found that “People with advanced cancer who communicated their symptoms weekly using an electronic survey had about a one-third better physical function and over a 15% better control of their symptoms compared to those who were evaluated less frequently via in-person clinical visits….” In fact, remote monitoring of patients through Patient-Reported Outcome Measures (PROMs) is so impactful we wrote an entire post about it — check it out here

With patient health at stake, getting digital healthcare initiatives right is more important than ever. 

Resources for making great healthcare apps

  • Creating a great healthcare app demands experts who understand both sides of the equation — how patients think and what clinicians need. You will almost certainly need specialized help from consultants. Learn more about how to choose the right consultants here
  • To keep users engaged and regularly using healthcare apps, developers must put behavioral design at the core of the app. Understanding what keeps people motivated and how to translate it into an easy-to-use app is imperative. Learn more about how Vessel Partners implements behavioral design here.  

Interoperability is key to all healthcare apps — and in today’s digital landscape that means being FHIR compliant. Learn more about FHIR compliance here.

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