McKinsey recently released their latest report on healthcare consumerism, and the results—though not terribly surprising—suggest that patients-as-consumers are driving powerful changes in the healthcare industry.
After gathering data from more than 4,000 people, four key themes bubbled to the top: affordability, continuity, digital, and engagement. Healthcare organizations are currently underdelivering in these areas, so those organizations that address them now will gain a competitive advantage. Telehealth can help organizations improve their standing in each of these arenas.
“As more patients seek care at retail clinics and the percentage of them with a primary care doctor continues to decline, continuity of care becomes a concern.”
McKinsey found that 72 percent of survey respondents had concerns about their healthcare expenses. There’s little reason to wonder why: patient’s out-of-pocket costs have increased dramatically in the past decade.
One way to bring healthcare costs down is using telehealth for easily treatable conditions like the flu, pink eye, or UTIs. A patient who engages with a doctor through virtual care rather than seeking care in the ER or at an urgent care clinic can save hundreds of dollars. And that’s not even counting the money spent on parking and childcare, or dollars lost because of missing work.
As more patients seek care at retail clinics and the percentage of them with a primary care doctor continues to decline, continuity of care becomes a concern.
Patients may choose to visit an out-of-network retail clinic, but later be surprised to find that their records do not sync up with their medical history elsewhere. For patients who value convenience, a virtual care option that integrates directly into their provider’s EHR would make it more attractive for them to stay in network, thus ensuring their medical history is complete and free of gaps.
“90 percent of patients feel no obligation to stay with a provider that doesn’t offer digital tools.”
The McKinsey study found that consumer expectations for digital access to healthcare are on the rise. A full 70 percent of patients prefer online tools to manage their care rather than phone or in-person communications. A separate study found that 90 percent of patients feel no obligation to stay with a provider that doesn’t offer digital tools.
Digital offerings range from the ability to make appointments and pay bills on a mobile phone to receiving care and ordering refill prescriptions online. Healthcare systems must embrace new digital tools, or run the risk of losing patients to others that do.
The shift to consumerism in healthcare means many patients feel more compelled to make their own decisions about how, when, and from whom they seek care. They want to be proactive about taking care of themselves and be an active participant—alongside their doctor—in improving their health. However, only a handful of them feel empowered to do so.
Telehealth is a great way to engage patients in both their urgent and ongoing needs. Emergent ailments like colds and UTIs and can be treated via virtual care, as can ongoing conditions such as depression. But patients can’t engage with telehealth tools if they don’t know they’re available to them. Like all new tools, there can be no engagement, or adoption, without education.
As consumerism continues to drive change in patients’ expectations of their healthcare experiences, telehealth provides an opportunity to meet them where they are, both now and into the future.