Accessing Care in the New Normal: Some Healthcare Consumers Prefer Combination of In-Person, Virtual Care Post-COVID-19

November 12, 2020
MHE Staff
MHE Staff

DocASAP’s second annual survey reveals an accelerated demand for timely, convenient care across different settings and the pandemic’s impact on care.

DocASAP, the health industry's most advanced patient access and engagement platform for health systems, health plans and physician groups, announced today the results of its second annual “State of Patient Access and Engagement” 2020 survey.

The survey, conducted by OnePoll and commissioned by DocASAP, reveals how healthcare consumers are adjusting to the new normal, including the lasting impact of COVID-19 and sentiments around vaccinations, an emerging preference for both in-person and virtual care and demand for more digital capabilities, according to a release.

COVID-19 Impact on Care

According to the survey results, 62% of respondents missed a scheduled healthcare appointment over the last 12 months, citing various reasons, including COVID-19 (27%). Missed appointments increased 9% compared to last year’s survey findings and varied widely across ethnicity groups, affecting Hispanics the most (85%), followed by Black/African Americans (74%), whites (57%) and Asians (44%).

Once a COVID-19 vaccine becomes widely available, 84% of respondents plan to get it; 3% higher than those who plan to get the annual flu shot this year (81%). When asked where you would feel safest receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, the top selection from respondents was doctor’s office (48%), followed by hospital (33%) and pharmacy (29%).

In contrast to DocASAP’s “Telehealth Consumer Experience” survey on July 28th, 26% felt doctor’s offices were the safest facility to enter. Further, more respondents said they would feel safer receiving the vaccine in a grocery store with a walk-in clinic (16%) or retail store with a walk-in clinic (15%) than a drive-thru vaccination site (7%). As states and healthcare leaders develop vaccination distribution plans, understanding patient preference will be critical to ensuring mass immunization.

Accelerated Demand for Timely, Convenient Care

The evolution of alternate care settings, including the dramatic rise in telehealth due to the current pandemic, is accelerating healthcare consumer demand for timely, convenient care. In fact, when asked “what would influence your decision to switch healthcare providers,” the top response was “provider’s location is more convenient” (44%), followed by “provider is available for both telehealth and in-person visits” (40%) and “provider has near-term availability when I need care” (37%).

When asked, “what is the longest time you would prefer to wait between scheduling a routine doctor's appointment and visiting the doctor,” 85% of respondents indicated no more than two weeks, up 5% from last year’s survey. Broken down by age, the preferred wait time between scheduling a routine doctor's appointment and visiting the doctor was “0-3 days” for Gen Z (ages 18-23) and Baby Boomers (ages 56+), and “4-7 days” for Millennials (ages 24-39) and Gen X (ages 40-55).

When asked “if you were unable to schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor when you wanted care, which care option would you consider?” the survey found that 87% of respondents would find “another provider,” with 50% selecting “a different provider within the same practice in-person,” followed by “urgent care center” (35%) and “online video visit/telehealth with a different provider” (30%).

The Shift to a Digital-First Mindset

To improve patient outcomes, drive engagement and increase loyalty in the new normal, healthcare providers must adopt a “digital-first” mindset. When asked about specific care settings, the survey found that post-COVID-19, the majority of respondents (44%) would prefer to receive care both in-person and via telehealth.

When asked “how you prefer to schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider,” most respondents (48%) cited scheduling online compared to over the phone (39%) and in-person (10%). Further, 74% of respondents said that scheduling a healthcare appointment outside of business hours is important. This number was highest among Black/African Americans (91%).

Digital remains king for both pre-appointment and post-appointment communications. When asked, “what is your preferred method for receiving an appointment reminder for a scheduled healthcare visit,” the majority of respondents (56%) selected digital methods (i.e. email or text message), an increase of 4% compared to last year. A deeper dive found that “text message” was selected as the preferred method for receiving an appointment reminder across all ethnicity groups. Digital methods (i.e. email, text message, online portal or mobile app) were also cited as the preferred method for receiving post-appointment communication from a healthcare provider (64%), up six percent compared to last year’s survey.

Additional notable findings:

  • On the heels of a tumultuous year, “not losing healthcare coverage” was the most important healthcare issue for respondents (40%), followed by “reducing healthcare costs” and “pre-existing condition protection” (35%, respectively).
  • Twenty-one percent of respondents cited “access to mental health services” as the most important healthcare issue. This number was highest among Millennials (29%) followed by Gen X (19%), Gen Z (10%) and Baby Boomers (9%).

“Blended care delivery models consisting of both in-person and virtual care are playing a crucial role in improving patient experience and, more importantly, outcomes,” says Puneet Maheshwari, co-founder and CEO of DocASAP, in the release. “As we prepare for the next wave of COVID-19 infections, ensuring patient access to the right care provider and care setting at the right time will be critical. This, combined with enhanced healthcare consumer-facing digital capabilities, will streamline the delivery of end-to-end care during the pandemic and beyond.”