Nearly two-thirds (64%) of U.S. patients are likely to switch to a new healthcare provider if their current health provider doesn’t meet their expectations for managing COVID-19 concerns, according to a new report from Accenture (NYSE: ACN).
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Patient Experience Infographic (Graphic: Business Wire)
Based on a survey of more than 4,600 U.S. respondents, the report, “Elevating the Patient Experience to Fuel Growth,” notes that patients are looking for a safer, more secure and convenient healthcare experience — including strict sanitary and safety protocols as well as virtual care options.
In addition, those who believe their healthcare providers handled COVID-19 poorly were three times more likely than satisfied patients to say they will either delay seeking services for at least a year or never return to that healthcare provider.
“Our research clearly shows that the patient experience matters now more than ever,” said Jean-Pierre Stephan, managing director, Accenture Health. “This should be interpreted as positive news because it means the future is in the hands of healthcare providers to embrace change and provide better healthcare experiences. We’re advising providers take this opportunity to offer a holistic, digital approach that centers on the patient’s access to quality care and post-care services; this will better position healthcare providers for long-term growth.”
The report suggests four ways to improve the patient experience:
- Address patient concerns in a personalized manner: Communicate specific actions taken to protect patients — such as offering separate entrances, allowing contactless payment and online paperwork, or even describing the advanced level of protective gear used by staff. When possible, physicians should deliver the message directly.
- Meet people at the front door: Address unique patient needs and ease COVID-19 concerns before a patient steps foot into the office or enters a virtual waiting room. Embed new safety and wellness protocols and practices throughout every interaction, from finding a doctor to scheduling an appointment or completing registration in advance of a visit. In fact, the survey found that 74% of patients are now likely to use online chat or texting to provide check-in information before their appointment if such a service is available.
- Enhance virtual care capabilities: Develop new models that use more virtual care, from bookings to meetings, so that those who remain wary of in-person care have more options. Patients have indicated a strong desire for this to happen. In a survey of 2,700 patients that Accenture conducted in May, 60% said that based on their experience using virtual care and devices during the pandemic, they want to use technology more for communicating with healthcare providers and managing their conditions in the future.
- Listen through social channels: Actively monitor local and national social channels to gather real-time insight into patient perceptions and community sentiment. This enables quick operational pivots to address consumer needs and measure progress along the way.
“While many health systems have improved safety protocols in light of COVID-19, they must also make the patient experience a top priority, not just to convince people to return, but also to lead the way in re-imagining the future of healthcare,” Stephan said. “In this new future of care, health systems need to provide effective, trusted, reliable care — both in person and virtually — while instilling confidence and demonstrating safety and respect. Otherwise, patients are likely to switch to other providers who are reinventing how healthcare services are delivered.”
About the research
Accenture surveyed 4,639 U.S. adults about the impact of COVID-19 on consumer trust across providers and payers; drivers of consumer willingness to return to in-person care; and the present and future use of virtual care. The survey was conducted online in June 2020.
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