As today’s economic strain continues to plague the everyday American (think food, gas, and rent prices at an all-time high), the healthcare industry is also grappling with the effects of inflation. In fact, one recent Politico article states although prices within healthcare remained stable compared to other sectors, rising costs have begun to impact balance sheets. Covid-related staffing shortages are driving up wages, leaving the industry in an all-too-familiar, strapped labor market.
“We’re dealing with really significant rates of increases in input prices directly related to inflation, and a lot of that is driven by the labor side,” American Hospital Association President and CEO Richard Pollack said. “Hospitals are experiencing pretty significant reductions in their operating margins—if you look at the numbers, we’re struggling.”
Factor in big moves that are direct-to-consumer plays for low-acuity patients, and health systems should be considering their strategy for rebuilding patient volumes post-Covid, while also generating downstream revenue. But, understanding why patients have put off care since Covid remains an elusive factor.
Why have healthcare consumers chosen not to receive care in a post-Covid landscape, and what factors could change that behavior? In this article, we’ll dive deep into the root issues impacting care access, patient experience, and retention—and what health systems should consider to successfully rebuild patient volumes.
What the data tells us: Why consumers put off care
In a recent consumer survey commissioned by Bright.md, we asked 1,200 people about their healthcare experiences since the start of the pandemic, and what they’re hoping care delivery will look like moving forward. One key question we posed centered on uncovering the main reason people put off getting care for common conditions in the past:
What’s the main reason you’ve put off getting care for conditions in the past?
- I haven’t found a doctor I trust
- I don’t know where to start to get the care I need
- I’m worried about out-of-pocket costs
- I have to travel far to see my doctor
- My doctor’s office has long wait times
- It feels like the healthcare system is intentionally confusing
According to respondents, delaying healthcare happens for a number of reasons that aren’t necessarily tied to costs, although that remains a major barrier:
As for the remaining 28 percent of respondents, two themes surfaced within our “Other” option, which included needing to travel and finding healthcare “confusing.” Fear of diagnosis results, anxiety around the entire care experience, and an overall lack of trust in healthcare were also touched on in respondent feedback.
Based on survey responses, health systems have an opportunity to re-engage patients and establish trust before their deferred conditions become complex and more costly to treat. This points to the growing need for health systems to help guide consumers to the right point of care based on their needs, as soon as they begin to look for it.
3 key takeaways to understand the healthcare consumer
We broke down three takeaways that health system leaders should note when it comes to new consumer preferences and rebuilding your patient volumes:
- Convenience is at the root of the patient experience. Wait times, travel, repetitive questions, and feeling rushed are all consumer “pet peeves” and greatly impact how today’s patients opt to find care. Not surprisingly, patients crave the ability to connect with a care provider via online or a mobile app—58 percent of survey respondents said they likely plan to get healthcare online or through an app in the future.
- Uncertainty around where to go and what kind of care is appropriate. With the full blown “consumerization” of care comes a plethora of options, leaving some consumers confused and overwhelmed. Not to mention today’s staffing shortages and increasing patient expectations leaving systems with no choice but to implement a top-tier “digital front door” to remain competitive. That’s why at Bright.md, we developed Navigate, an easy-to-use digital solution that asks patients to answer one simple question about their symptoms and then offers recommended care options based on their needs, while linking them to the appropriate next step within their health system.
- Trust in a provider is critical. When patients have a rushed or negative experience with a provider, the system consequently loses trust, loyalty, and business. And, chances are, the care delivery experience left much to be desired by your providers as well. Couple this with mounting burnout among clinicians, and solutions that support providers are becoming increasingly critical in today’s landscape.The Bright.md solution is designed to alleviate providers of unnecessary work while reducing the time spent in the EHR. Our solution gathers patient intake information ahead of the appointment while also creating automated SOAP notes that integrate into your EHR of choice. In turn, we’re giving providers better digital tools, allowing them to practice at the top of their license.
How health system executives can rebuild patient volumes in 2022
Cost transparency, less repetitive intake processes, and more virtual care options are what consumers desire most out of their healthcare in today’s environment. Tools that make the experience easier to navigate and understand are critical to keeping patients; in fact, 47 percent of our survey respondents said they want more transparency into medical costs and billing.
We drilled down into four actionable steps healthcare executives should take to drive patient loyalty and uptake, despite increasing competition:
- Consider solutions that are on-demand, virtual and easy to use. Forty percent of consumers say they want more digital options that allow them to interact with a provider, share their symptoms, and get a diagnosis and treatment plan virtually. Bright.md’s virtual care solution uses digital access points to help patients find, access, and receive care, while clinicians can treat patients from the platform asynchronously or triage them to the right level of care, whether that be video or in-person. Additionally, it enables your existing tech stack to work more productively for each patient encounter —asynchronously, in-person, or via video.
- Streamline the intake process to improve healthcare for both patients and providers. One in three consumers said they want their health system to reduce the amount of repetitive questions regarding their symptoms during intake. In a separate question, nearly half (47 percent) said they were asked to provide their background information and symptoms to healthcare professionals multiple times during each visit. Bright.md’s clinical interviews, though, help gather the necessary medical history while automating patient intake, resulting in a more streamlined experience for both the patient and the provider.
- Make it easy for patients to find the care they need while directing them appropriately through a digital front door. By implementing a triage solution like Navigate by Bright.md, health systems can compete directly with direct-to-consumer offerings by meeting patients where they are. Designed to have a seamless, on-demand experience, Navigate makes finding care as easy as possible for patients. In fact, those who use Navigate to find care for low-acuity conditions like ear infections, colds, or rashes can immediately begin an asynchronous interview through Bright.md with a wait-time of just six minutes on average to get a diagnosis and care plan from a trusted provider.
- Equip providers with the right kind of technology that integrates into your tech stack and provides value. Today’s clinicians are facing an epidemic of burnout, which includes a low sense of professional worth. To negate turnover and alleviate clinician overwhelm, a solution like Bright.md makes sense—the clinical interviews within our asynchronous telehealth platform is proprietary and allows providers to treat low-acuity conditions in an average of 3.5 minutes per patient. These numbers have huge implications for improving patient satisfaction, increasing patient retention, improving access to care, reducing provider burnout, and driving cost savings for the health system.
Rebuild patient volumes with new consumer insights.