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What healthcare consumers really want: convenience, to start

Health systems can improve competitiveness by meeting consumer demand for more timely and accessible care.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Convenience is a growing priority for today's healthcare consumers, but key criteria such as care quality indicators, cost, and brand also factor prominently in their decisions, finds an annual survey from Kyruus.

The findings highlight that health systems can improve competitiveness by meeting consumer demand for more timely and convenient access to care, while also resolving gaps in the scheduling process and delivering a cohesive access experience across the enterprise.

IMPACT

For the second straight year, consumers commonly reported that they searched for a new provider online, but the majority again said they prefer to book appointments by phone.

Convenience-related factors like location and appointment availability continue to feature heavily in consumer decisions about where to obtain care, though insurance accepted and clinical expertise remain the top criteria.

New findings from this year's survey also underscore the growing interest in alternative care sites, with almost half of respondents reporting that they visited a retail or urgent care clinic in the last year.

Location convenience was the top reason cited for visiting clinics -- reinforcing the need for integrated patient access strategies that not only unify access points, but also enable access to different sites of care.

THE TREND

Healthcare organizations aren't making significant strides in adapting to consumerism, even despite increasing demand, competition for patient loyalty and plenty of lip service to the idea.

That's true across the range of hospitals, payers and pharmaceutical companies, according to new research by branding and marketing consultancy specialist Prophet.

WHAT ELSE YOU SHOULD KNOW

Appointment availability is uniformly important across respondents: Roughly four out of five consumers rated it extremely or very important. Further underscoring the importance of availability, 30 percent of consumers who visited a clinic in the last year indicated that they did so as a result of their primary care provider not being able to see them.

Insurance remains the top factor in provider selection, followed by clinical expertise. However, compared to 2017, the share of consumers rating cost as extremely or very important decreased 10 percent, while the quality of patient ratings and reviews rose five percent.

Scheduling gaps were found to pose barriers to patient access and satisfaction. While most consumers prefer to call to book an appointment (58 percent), only about 40 percent who called a hospital or health system to schedule one reported that they successfully booked an appointment on their first call.

Online self-service continues to be important for younger generations -- 58 percent of millennials and 64 percent of Gen Xers who prefer to book online would actually switch providers for the ability to do so compared with just 18 percent of Baby Boomers.

Also, brand matters. Consumers value the reputation of the hospital/health system, with 68 percent rating it extremely or very important in provider selection. This finding, juxtaposed with the trend toward new care options, demonstrates that brand may serve as a differentiator for health systems as they expand sites of care.
 

Twitter: @JELagasse

Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com

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