Consumers are overwhelmingly gravitating toward digital channels like online portals and mobile apps to connect with their healthcare providers when offered, according to a new study from business and technology consultancy West Monroe Partners.
According to the study, 86 percent of consumers who have access to online portals use them for some or all of their communication with their healthcare provider, while 91 percent use mobile apps when they are available. In addition, nearly one-third (31 percent) of consumers have used a mobile application to communicate with their healthcare provider in real time about a specific condition. Overall, 80 percent of customers who have communicated real-time via a mobile app prefer this method to a traditional office visit.
The study, “No More Waiting Room: The Future of the Healthcare Customer Experience,” highlights how consumer preferences are shifting away from traditional office visits, toward more digital, mobile interactions. These changing habits are especially apparent among younger, tech-native consumers who view their healthcare experience as more than an annual checkup, but rather an ongoing, digitally connected relationship with their providers. However, healthcare providers and insurers are not prepared to meet these evolving needs, the report revealed.
Indeed, the research found that while consumers’ expectations of the healthcare experience are rapidly changing, healthcare executives don’t feel prepared to meet their needs. According to the study, 85 percent of healthcare insurance executives aren’t confident they have the right technology in place to evolve the customer experience to meet consumer expectations and 54 percent aren’t confident they have the processes needed to evolve that experience.
Healthcare insurance executives are also challenged by consumers’ reluctance to share personal data with them. Given the volume, scale and visibility of healthcare-based cyberattacks over the past few years, less than half of consumers (48 percent) completely trust their provider with their personal information. In many instances, consumers are willing to overcome their privacy concerns if rewarded with better rates and a higher quality of service. However, only eight percent of healthcare insurers offer discounted rates in exchange for participation, while none offer direct discounts on products or services.
“Healthcare providers realize the impact of digital communication channels and are beginning to adapt,” Will Hinde, senior director at West Monroe Partners and leader of the firm’s Healthcare practice, said in a statement. “We’re starting to see more providers incorporate the digital experience with their office visit, by shifting to more online scheduling of appointments, paperless office interactions, following up via email, portals, and mobile apps, and taking steps towards greater cost and quality transparency.”