Digital technology has been steadily making its way into the healthcare industry over the past several years. While it looked as if that trend would continue at an even quicker pace, the coronavirus pandemic has only accelerated the rate of adoption. 

Many providers and consumers who had previously not considered digital technology to meet their healthcare needs have now embraced it out of necessity. Whether or not the increased usage continues after the pandemic is resolved remains to be seen, however it is likely that at least some of the increase will be maintained, says Jordan Pisarcik, vice president of growth and customer engagement at DocASAP.

Pisarcik recently discussed some of the upcoming digital trends that he believes will continue to change the way health systems, providers and patients will interact with each other in the future. 

Consumers Will Seek Alternate Ways to Get Care

Consumers will continue to increase their demand for non-traditional ways to get medical care they need, Pisarcik predicts. That includes telehealth, particularly in rural settings, virtual appointments, walk-in visits, home visits and phone consultations.

In fact, many people in the US are already using alternate methods to obtain the medical care they need. Accenture’s 2019 “Digital Health Consumer Survey” showed that 29% of consumers have used some type of virtual medical care while nearly half have used a walk-in or retail health clinic.

In New York City alone, the demand for telehealth visits has increased by 312% during the coronavirus pandemic, according to one provider. Another boost for telehealth came when New Jersey and other states ordered health insurers in the state to reimburse providers for telehealth visits

Health Systems Will Pursue a Unified Approach to Patient Access and Engagement

When healthcare providers began to offer digital access to their patients, they did so with a variety of portals and third-party web applications. There was one for online bill payment, another for requesting an appointment and perhaps a third for checking lab results. 

Today’s consumers want to be able to take care of everything through a single access point. “Providers and health systems will look to develop more unified, omnichannel solutions to help them improve the healthcare consumer experience and close gaps in care,” Pisarcik says.  “Health systems will invest in tools and technologies used to streamline the patient journey from provider search and scheduling to post-visit follow-up notifications.”

Among the digital services consumers want, according to the Accenture survey are: 

  • Request prescription refills electronically.
  • Get reminders for preventive or follow-up care via text message or email.
  • Use secure email to communicate with healthcare providers.
  • Make, change or cancel appointments online.
  • Use remote devices to monitor and record health indicators.
  • Conduct appointments online via video or telehealth. 

Payor-Provider Collaboration Will Help Expand Access to Care

Value-based care continues to change the way healthcare is delivered to consumers by providing incentives for payors and providers to collaborate. Called payviders, these partnerships can have a positive impact on three crucial areas of healthcare:

  • Quality of care provided to patients/members.
  • Lower costs and better financial returns for payors and providers. 
  • A better patient/member experience.

“Forty-seven percent of healthcare consumers use health plan member apps or provider portals when they are looking for healthcare professionals,” says Pisarcik. “ Providers who are looking to differentiate themselves will work with health plans to implement digital access strategies for these two untapped channels.” says Pisarcik.

Voice Search Applications Will Come to Market

Voice search has been growing significantly over the past few years and all indications are that the use of voice search and voice assistants will continue to grow. A survey by Capgemini Digital Transformation Institute says that 24% of consumers currently use voice assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home or Siri instead of a website or mobile app. That number is expected to grow to 40% by the end of this year.

In addition, says Pisarcik, companies like Amazon and Google are working to integrate voice search and voice assistance into healthcare applications that are being developed for the healthcare market. 

“We expect to see healthcare systems aggressively work toward leveraging and optimizing voice search as a way to increase patient engagement,” says Pisarcik. Smartphones will play an important role in increasing patient engagement because 81% of those who are already using voice assistants do it via their phones, according to the Capgemini survey. 

Health Systems Will Continue to Catch up to Consumer Demands

Digital technology has dramatically changed the consumers experiences in many other industries and healthcare is no exception. But while other industries have been quick to meet consumer expectations, 70% of healthcare providers have either not begun or are in the beginning stages of meeting consumer demands, according to Kaufman Hall.

“Consumer experiences with other industries have established their expectations for what they want in their healthcare interactions, “ Pisarcik says. “We expect health systems to only move marginally quicker to adapt to consumer needs.”

Healthcare providers that are more nimble and can act more will see great opportunity to better engage healthcare consumers, speed up time to value for patient access, and start gaining their loyalty.

Next Steps

Hospitals and physician practices can help increase patient loyalty by adopting digital technology and tools. To get more information, insight and ideas, download DocASAP’s new eBook Catching Up to the Healthcare Consumer.

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