Survey Points to a Consumer-centered Future of Health

December 13, 2019

Deloitte’s 2019 global healthcare consumer survey finds people are willing to shop for deals, disagree with their doctors, and use technology to track and maintain their health.

Around the world, digital tools and other technologies are helping consumers take more control of their health, according to results of Deloitte’s 2019 global healthcare consumer survey. Twenty years from now, healthcare will be more consumer-centric, according to the consultancy. Consumers will likely have access to their own health data in an easy-to-use format and will use it to make decisions that help them improve or maintain their health.

The Deloitte 2019 global survey of healthcare consumers, combined with relevant findings from the firm’s 2018 U.S. survey of healthcare consumers, shows meaningful percentages of people who exhibit traditional “consumer behaviors” when it comes to their health. Countries in the 2019 survey include Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.

“Consumer behavior” encompasses several attitudes and actions that align with being informed, acting independently, and evaluating choices.

Some aspects of this behavior captured in the survey include:
• being proactive about health and using preventive care;
• willingness to disagree with a clinician;
• willingness to change doctors or health plans if unsatisfied with care or customer service;
• using technology and digital tools to improve and/or maintain health;
• willingness to share data if properly incentivized; and
• using tools/ratings to find the best quality of care and customer service.

Key survey findings:

Increasing use of technology and willingness to share data

A growing number of consumers are using technology for measuring fitness, ordering prescription drug refills, and monitoring their health. In 2018, 42% of U.S. consumers said they used tools to track health improvement goals, up significantly from just 17% in 2013.

Even those who are not using technology for health say they are interested, suggesting that the right tools haven’t been built yet.

Related: 5 Things Consumers Want From Healthcare

All survey participants were asked to think about future situations where they would be willing to share their tracked health data (in apps and medical devices), regardless of whether they currently track their health data. Results show that:

• One-third to half of consumers are willing to share their health data in emergency situations (either to alert family members or emergency responders).

• About 20% of consumers globally would be willing to share their de-identified (blinded) health data with organizations that do healthcare research. In the U.S., 39% were willing.

• Approximately 20% of global consumers said they would be willing to share their personal health data from a medical device with a device developer. The U.S. percentage was 40%.

• Across the board, chronically ill consumers are more willing than healthy consumers to share their tracked health information. People are most willing to share de-identified information from their medical record for personal analysis and for the development of therapies to treat patients who have the same condition.

The most common reason consumers said they didn’t share personal fitness data was because they didn’t think their doctor would be interested. Singapore differed, in that the majority said they didn’t have a regular doctor or that they would rather keep this information private.

Tracking health information doesn’t necessarily result in better outcomes, Deloitte consultants say. But health information combined with appropriate interventions, leveraging behavioral economics principles, can lead to healthier behaviors.

More consumers are using virtual visits/consultations
Consumers appear to be warming up to the idea of virtual health. More than half of those who have seen a care provider virtually report being satisfied and would likely have another virtual visit.

Between 13% and 29% of consumers in the seven countries surveyed have had a virtual visit/consultation with a care provider. Consumers in Denmark and Singapore have more virtual visits than other countries surveyed, while those in Germany were least likely to have a virtual visit.

“We anticipate virtual visits to take off, now that clinicians will be reimbursed for their time on virtual visits,” says David Betts, principal, U.S. leader for Customer Transformation in Health Care, Deloitte Consulting LLP, who, with Leslie Korenda, co-authored the survey summary. “In addition, we anticipate higher pickup in the United Kingdom because of the National Health Service Long Term Plan, where, starting in 2021, every patient in England will have access to online and video consultations-if they choose. However, it’s important to note that having access is one step but consumers wanting to make use of the option is another.”

In each of the countries tracked, there were fairly high satisfaction rates among people who have used virtual visits. In most countries, “completely/very satisfied” levels hovered between 35% and 46%. In the U.S., the percentage was higher-at 77%-which may reflect the fact that it has offered virtual visits for longer than most of the other surveyed countries.

The most common reasons people would not consider another virtual visit (across all countries) are: they didn’t think the quality of care was as good as an in-person visit; they were not able to connect with the clinician in the same way as they would in person; and they had to go to another healthcare clinician in person after the virtual visit anyway.

High levels of self-efficacy and prevention behaviors

Consumers are no longer passive participants in the health system. They demand transparency, convenience, and access, Betts says. People today seem more willing to tell their doctors when they disagree. This is especially true in the Netherlands and in the U.S.-where 58% of consumers said they were “very likely” or “extremely likely” to do this. Consumers in Singapore and the United Kingdom are least likely to disagree with their doctors.

By 2040, Deloitte consultants expect health to be defined holistically as an overall state of well-being encompassing mental, social, emotional, physical, and spiritual health. Not only will consumers likely have access to detailed information about their own health, they will own their health data and play a central role in making decisions about their health. Survey findings support this vision. A high percentage of consumers said they follow a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and follow their doctor’s recommendations for health screenings and vaccinations (though these percentages varied by country).

Use of tools to make decisions about prescriptions and care

Many consumers are interested in using tools to compare pricing and read user reviews. The level of interest tends to be highest when consumers have more exposure to out-of-pocket spending. Nearly half (49%) of U.S. consumers and 45% of those in Singapore said they are interested in using such tools.

In addition, consumers in the United States, Canada, and Singapore were more likely than consumers in other countries to use websites to look up quality and satisfaction ratings for doctors and hospitals, and look up user reviews, safety information, and effectiveness ratings.

 

From Deloitte’s U.S. consumer study, consultants know that consumers’ use of pricing and quality tools is increasing. For example, the percentage of consumers who look up cost information for health services has nearly doubled over the past three years from 14% to 27%. As consumers increasingly use these tools, they may be more willing to switch doctors, devices, or hospitals because they have more information on who and what tools provide the best prices and the highest quality.

Apps and at-home tests are becoming popular among consumers.

At-home tests, mobile devices, and related technologies are enabling new ways to diagnose, monitor, and manage patients and their treatment. Companies are developing these tests and apps along a continuum of wellness and prevention strategies-ranging from acute diagnosis and chronic disease management to identifying future risks of illness.

Deloitte found that between 20% and 33% of consumers are “very” or “extremely interested” in using apps for engaging with virtual assistants and health coaches, and apps that help them identify health issues.

Between one-third and half of consumers surveyed are comfortable using at-home diagnostics for various reasons. Compared with other at-home tests, fewer consumers said they are comfortable with at-home genetic testing, ranging from 22% (Denmark) to 44% (United States), and microbiome/gut testing via a stool sample, ranging from 26% (Singapore) to 41% (United States). Consumers in Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada have similar comfort levels in each of the categories surveyed.

As these tests become more widespread, consumers will need actionable information, including medical advice from a physician or a genetic counselor. As consumer interest rises, experts expect the development of at-home tests for many other diseases and prevention efforts. The use of these tests also has the potential to help with provider efficiency and making sure the patient is getting the right level of care when needed.

Interest in emerging technologies

There is a meaningful number (ranging from 22% to 44%) of consumers who are “very” or “extremely” willing to use emerging technologies such as drones, robots, sensors, and virtual assistants. As these technologies advance, consumers will grow more comfortable with these technologies. Digital transformation-enabled by radically interoperable data, AI, and open, secure platforms-is likely to continue to help more and more consumers embrace these technologies.

Implications for industry and government stakeholders

By 2040, Deloitte experts expect the consumer to be at the center of the health model.

“Stakeholders should prepare now for an increasingly demanding and sophisticated consumer. Engaging the consumer holds profound potential benefits for healthcare and the future of health,” Brett says. “New digital tools can play an important role in the future of care-from monitoring a person’s health to helping individuals get access to more convenient care, to giving caregivers peace of mind, and helping older adults remain in their homes rather than move to institutional care. These tools also have the potential to increase consumer satisfaction, improve medication adherence, and help consumers monitor their health.

“To meet consumer needs, organizations should provide easy-to-use platforms, high-quality care through these newer channels, and security and privacy of health and personal information.”