The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the health care system upside down and challenged consumers’ sense of well-being. In many ways consumers are taking charge of their health more than ever before. They are learning about their health risks, communicating with their doctors in new and different ways, and changing their attitudes about data privacy. Each of these factors has a significant influence on how consumers are feeling and interacting with the health system. Going forward, how will these events and factors change consumer behavior? Are we more or less likely to see empowered health care consumers?
We gained an understanding of current US consumer behaviors and attitudes through the 2020 Deloitte Center for Health Solutions’ biennial survey (the Deloitte 2020 Survey of US Health Care Consumers). Since 2008, Deloitte has been conducting this survey to explore and collect longitudinal data on the subject, and this year we rolled it out just before the pandemic started. We also collected insights from a consumer survey during the pandemic (in April and early May 2020)—The Health Care Consumer Response to COVID-19 Survey.
Findings show that:
- Many consumers show agency and engagement: Consumers are increasingly willing to tell their doctors when they disagree with them, are using tools to get information on costs and health issues, are tracking their health conditions and using that data to make decisions, and accessing and using their medical record data.
- Consumers are using virtual visits more than ever before and plan to continue using them: Consumers using virtual visits rose from 15% to 19% from 2019 to early 2020; this jumped to 28% in April 2020. On average, 80% are likely to have another virtual visit, even post COVID-19. Most consumers are satisfied with their visits and say they will use this type of care again.
- More consumers are using technology for health monitoring and are willing to share their data: A growing number of consumers are using technology to monitor their health, measure fitness, and order prescription-drug refills. After a slight decline in willingness to share data before COVID-19, new data shows that consumers are more comfortable sharing data during a crisis.
- A trusted clinician relationship remains paramount: The top factors for “an ideal health care experience” in the Deloitte 2020 Survey of US Health Care Consumers mirrored the findings of a similar study in 2016: doctors who listen to/care about them, doctors who don’t rush, and clear communication. As health systems, technology companies, and others roll out virtual services, it is imperative to provide the same personal experience as during an in-person visit. This is particularly true for organizations that are developing tools or services for those with chronic conditions, as they are most likely to value a sustained relationship.
The pandemic has accelerated consumer activation in some respects and slowed it down in others. On the one hand, patients are increasing virtual visits, interactions with health technology, and are more willing to share data. On the other hand, people are reporting increased levels of anxiety, financial and economic worries, and hesitation to go outside and get back to “everyday life” for fear of getting the virus or passing it along to others.
During this time of great uncertainty for consumers, health care organizations should recommit themselves to understanding consumers and creating a multifaceted strategy that speaks to where consumers are right now.
The consumer in the future of health
Deloitte’s future of health vision for 2040 has the consumer at the center. Over time, we’ve seen increases in consumer agency and activation, which drive many of the underlying trends. But the pandemic’s widespread impacts on the health care system and consumer are bringing into clearer focus aspects of our vision for the future of health. Harder-to-imagine ideas about the ways in which consumers will engage in their health in the future proved to be realistic by the changes forced on the system by the pandemic. The public health crisis has called on the system to provide consumers access to care from home, and in some ways, encourage consumers to have more agency in making decisions about their health. We anticipate that as the crisis abates, consumers will continue to expect the conveniences and tools to which they have become accustomed during this time.
How the pandemic has affected pre-COVID consumer trends
The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed consumer behaviors and attitudes along with their anxiety and comfort levels about health care globally. To gain insights into this shift, we examined both longitudinal data prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and survey responses during the pandemic.
Specifically, we used the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions’ biennial survey (the Deloitte 2020 Survey of US Health Care Consumers), which we have been using since 2008 to explore and collect longitudinal data on the subject. This year we surveyed 4,522 consumers between February 24 and March 14, 2020, just before COVID-19 became widespread and before governments put social-distancing restrictions in place. Deloitte also fielded another consumer survey during the pandemic; the Health Care Consumer Response to COVID-19 Survey surveyed 1,510 American consumers about their health, experiences, and behavior in mid-April to early May 2020.(For more details on the methodology, see the sidebar “Inside the Deloitte consumer surveys”).
By David Betts, Shane Guilani & Leslie Korenda
Read the full report at www2.deloitte.com