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Healthcare disruptors outperform hospitals in digital readiness

Traditional primary care providers are at risk of losing consumers to urgent care facilities, report shows.

Recent analysis shows most hospitals are falling behind newer competitors when it comes to the digital experience and are at risk of losing consumers to "disruptors" of the healthcare market.

Nine out of 10 health systems are being outperformed by healthcare disruptors such as MedExpress Urgent Care and CVS Health Hubs when it comes to digital communication with patients, according to the analysis by Centric Digital and Navigant.

The study looked at 1,400 hospitals and health systems. Larger health systems with revenue size over $2 billion scored slightly better than the overall group average.


Sixty percent of consumers expect their healthcare digital experience to mirror that of retail.

Hospitals must develop digital strategies from a consumer standpoint and rethink their current approach if they are to remain competitive, according to James McHugh, a partner at Navigant's parent company Guidehouse.

The study shows most consumers access their healthcare digitally. Eighty percent used the internet to make a healthcare related search in the past year. This included 76% of consumers over 60 years of age, which indicates the trend is not only among younger generations.

The study found that 63% of consumers will choose one provider over another because of a strong online presence, and that 61% consider ease of appointment a factor in a 5-star-worthy healthcare provider.

Disruptors have more digital options for communicating and receiving information. For example, urgent care facilities are also using search engine optimization to make it easier to find care options online. 

Only 45% of health systems allow consumers to search for available appointment time information without logging into a portal, compared to 75% of disruptors, the research found. Only 3% of health systems also have public chat.


Other recent studies have reported the growing need for an improved digital experience in the healthcare industry.

Last October, Cedar released a study that reported 41% of its survey takers would stop going to their healthcare provider over a poor experience with online bill pay. Cedar founder and CEO Florian Otto said at the time that healthcare providers are "now being judged by the digital experience they provide their patients."

The Cedar study highlighted areas where healthcare providers sometimes struggle with providing information digitally regarding billing. Of the 60% of Cedar study participants who said they had asked for information on out-of-pocket cost information from their providers, 51% said they struggled to get it or did not receive an accurate estimate.


"Disruptors are not only seizing the consumerization of healthcare in providing access, convenience, choice, and price transparency for lower-acuity services, they are also reaching customers with Amazon-like capabilities built into their tools," said Guidehouse Partner and Healthcare Technology Leader Subra Sripada.

Max Sullivan is a freelance writer and reporter who, in addition to writing about healthcare, has covered business stories, municipal government, education and crime. Twitter: @maxsullivanlive