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New Healthcare Study: More Patients Willing To Switch To Doctors With Better Digital Tools

There’s a change in the air for healthcare. Consumers doing the digital shift in every other part of their lives instinctively grasp the idea that digital transformation can help cure an ailing healthcare system, and they’re willing to try new physicians to access connected care.

The July 2021 report Connected Healthcare: What Consumers Want From Their Healthcare Customer Experiences, a PYMNTS and Rectangle Health collaboration, delves deeply into the topic, surveying over 2,260 respondents about customer experiences in healthcare and the provider choices they’re making in the wake of a global healthcare crisis that malingers.

“Patients who are willing to leave their current providers to access digital options identified tools that helped them save time, keep track of payments and interact securely with their healthcare providers as their top motivations for switching,” the study states, adding that “a large share of baby boomers and seniors cited secure communications with their provider (28 percent) as a leading reason to switch providers, while Gen Z patients listed appointment reminders (23 percent) as a key motivating factor for a provider change.”

Gen Z, millennial and bridge millennial patients willing to change to physicians offering better digital healthcare management tools went from 31 percent in 2020 to 35 percent in 2021.

Patients Weigh In On Office Versus Online Visits

Somewhat surprising is the attachment to in-person office visits at a time when the COVID-19 Delta variant is a serious health threat. According to the July Connected Healthcare study, “the majority of respondents — 78 percent — prefer to visit their providers in person. The shares holding this preference are larger for baby boomers and seniors (91 percent) and patients seeking routine check – ups (89 percent) or procedures (98 percent).”

Only 16 percent of patients continue to prefer online doctor visits — “the largest shares did so to complete routine healthcare management tasks, such as making simple requests or obtaining information” — per the findings. Also, 41 percent of patients “prefer online visits when asking for additional prescriptions, 36 percent prefer them for checking test results and 30 percent prefer them when asking for information from their healthcare providers.”

Less surprising are peoples’ reasons for preferring online appointments, with the study noting that, “Patients who favored online visits reported that they preferred digital ones because such vis – its saved time (51 percent), the patients found traveling inconvenient (37 percent) or the options helped them manage scheduling concerns (35 percent).”

Most Consumers Favor Healthcare Payment Plans

When it comes to paying for medical services, the digital shift is seeking its own level. For starters, researchers found that consumers “tend to pay at the point of sale for healthcare, just as they do when retail shopping. Patients who prefer telehealth experiences tend to make digital payments, and those who prefer in-office healthcare visits pay in the office.”

It gets much more compelling when drilling down on payments methods consumers would like to see more of from their medical practices post-pandemic. According to the study, 56 percent of consumers “expressed significant interest in payment plans, and patients across all demographics report interest in covering bills that insurance will not pay for with affordable payments. The difference between the amount that would cause patients living paycheck to paycheck and those earning above $100,000 annually to seek out affordable installment payments for medical bills differed by less than $800.”

As Connected Healthcare: What Consumers Want From Their Healthcare Customer Experiences concludes, “Most consumers are … very interested in affordable ways to pay their bills, and healthcare practices may inspire customer loyalty and possibly avoid costly debt collection actions by offering payment plans to consumers. Medical practices now have a unique opportunity to make the patient experience more positive through offering through the digital communication tools and new payment options that consumers want.”

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