Portion of US Consumers Likely to Switch Providers if COVID is Managed Poorly

December 1, 2020
MHE Staff

Nearly two-thirds 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.

About 64% of U.S. patients are likely to switch to a new healthcare provider if their current provider doesn’t meet their expectations for managing COVID-19 concerns, according to a new report from Accenture.

Patients are looking for a safer, more secure and convenient healthcare experience — including strict sanitary and safety protocols as well as virtual care options, the report collected from more than 4,600 respondents, says.

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,” says Jean-Pierre Stephan, managing director of Accenture Health, in the report. "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 those who remain wary of in-person care have more options. Patients have indicated a strong desire for this to happen. In a survey Accenture conducted in May, 60% said 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 says. “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.”