How the COVID-19 Pandemic Has Changed Consumer Healthcare Behavior

August 14, 2020

Deloitte, a consulting firm, recently released new data on consumer behaviors towards healthcare and how those behaviors changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in a survey.

Deloitte, a consulting firm, recently released new data on consumer behaviors towards healthcare and how those behaviors changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in a survey.

The report on Deloitte’s biennial Center for Health Solutions Survey of U.S Consumers shows a significant increase in virtual care visits versus pre-pandemic trends, and a reversal in consumers’ willingness to share health data following the COVID-19 pandemic. From 2018 to 2020, there was a decrease in consumers' willingness to share their data in all the areas measured, except for healthcare research, which stayed steady. However, during the pandemic, the study showed an increase in consumer willingness to share data in every scenario measured.

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the healthcare system upside down and challenged consumers' sense of well-being, according to the report. In other words, consumers are taking charge of their health more than ever before. They are learning about their health risks, communicating with their doctors in new and different ways, and changing their attitudes about data privacy.

According to the report, Deloitte gained an understanding of current U.S. consumer behaviors and attitudes through its Deloitte Center for Health Solutions' "2020 Survey of US Health Care Consumers."

Some key findings from the survey are consumers using virtual visits rose from 15% to 19% from 2019 to early 2020; this jumped to 28% in April 2020. On average, 80% are likely to have another virtual visit, even post COVID-19.

When asked to rank the most important factors for an ideal experience with their doctor, in 2020, 44% of consumers ranked "a doctor or health care provider who listens to me and shows they care about me" as the No. 1 factor.

After a decline in willingness to share data before COVID-19, Deloitte's most recent survey shows that consumers are more comfortable sharing data during a crisis. When asked how willing they would be to share personal health information as a result of the crisis, consumers were in favor across a variety of measures:

  • With their health insurance provider: 71% would be willing as a result of COVID-19 versus 65% prior to COVID-19.
  • With their preferred local health care system or provider: 73% would be willing as a result of COVID-19 versus 71% prior to COVID-19.
  • With a leading national health care provider: 53% would be willing as a result of COVID-19 versus 47% prior to COVID-19.
  • With tech companies: 18% would be willing as a result of COVID-19 versus. 15% prior to COVID-19.
  • With top retailers: 15% would be willing as a result of COVID-19 versus 14% prior to COVID-19.
  • With top online retailers only: 15% would be willing as a result of COVID-19 versus 13% prior to COVID-19.
  • Among those who used a fitness device or a monitoring device, about half shared data from it with their doctor. Those in excellent health (62%) and those with difficult chronic diseases (75%) are most likely to share their information with their doctor.
  • A large majority of consumers (65%) believe they should own their own health data versus 30% who think their doctor should own it, and even fewer who think that the government should own it.

Along with in-person visits, consumers expect their virtual visits to be high quality and with clinicians who listen, take their time, and treat them well. The 2020 survey found among consumers who wouldn't have another virtual care visit, one-third said quality of care was not as good as with their regular doctor, and 1 in 5 said they did not like the way the clinician treated them.

  • Sixty-six percent of respondents from the Deloitte April COVID-19 consumer survey believe that a doctor or nurse needs to physically examine them to understand their health needs.
  • Fifty-six percent don't believe they get the same quality of care/value from a virtual visit as from an in-person visit.
  • In the "2020 Deloitte Survey of U.S. Physicians," 85% of physicians across the country said that training around improving virtual visit skills, such as conveying empathy, is essential but absent in their practice.

Even as consumers use virtual visits and other non-traditional settings, they still expect trusting relationships and pleasant experiences with their clinicians. This is particularly true for people with chronic conditions, as they are most likely to value a sustained relationship.

In early 2020, 51% of consumers said they were very or extremely likely to tell their doctors when they disagree with them. More than half of seniors and boomers are likely to be vocal about their disagreement versus half/less than half of younger generations — 63% of seniors and 57% of boomers versus 50% of Gen X and 46% of millennials and Gen Z.

When asked to rank the most important factors for an ideal experience with their doctor earlier this year:

  • Forty-four percent of consumers ranked "a doctor or health care provider who listens to me and shows they care about me" as the No. 1 factor.
  • Forty-two percent ranked "a doctor or health care provider who spends time with me and does not rush through the exam."
  • Thirty-nine percent of consumers ranked "a doctor or health care provider who clearly explains what they are doing during the exam and what I need to do after the visit."
  • Twenty-five percent ranked "doctors and other health care providers who communicate with each other and coordinate treatment.


"To maintain or even re-earn the trust of consumers during such an unprecedented time in our history, healthcare organizations should demonstrate reliability, transparency, and most importantly, a sense of empathy in how they conduct operations moving forward," says David Betts, principal of Deloitte Consulting LLP. "As consumers consider their options for where they'll get their care, health care leaders should consider addressing multigenerational health and equity challenges, help reduce uncertainty and enable more virtual, compassionate, equitable, predictive, and preventative care."