By Christine Kern, contributing writer
Ninety-one percent of patients use mobile apps and 80 percent prefer mobile to traditional office visits.
A study by business and technology consulting firm West Monroe Partners found expansion of digital communication and available patient data will move the healthcare industry beyond the traditional doctor’s visit. Of those polled, 91 percent of respondents say they take advantage of mobile apps when offered, and 80 percent actually prefers mobile to a traditional office visit. Thirty-one percent of patients have used a mobile app to communicate with their healthcare provider about a specific condition.
The study, No More Waiting Room: The Future of the Healthcare Customer Experience, also found two-thirds of patients whose provider doesn’t offer an online portal want one, which supports earlier research finding patients want better mobile access to their records and healthcare options. A recent Harris Poll found that, while patient adoption of digital health tools still remains low, interest in virtual care services is high and the majority of consumers are now choosing primary care providers based on how well they use technology. In fact, 59 percent of all insured patients and 70 percent of millennials report they would select a PCP who had a patient mobile app over one that does not.
“Patients today are choosing their providers, in part, based on how well they use technology to communicate with them and manage their health,” Joshua Newman, M.D., chief medical officer, Salesforce Healthcare and Life Sciences, said in a statement. “Care providers who build deeper patient relationships through care-from-anywhere options, the use of wearables and better communications post-discharge, will be in a strong position to be successful today and into the future.”
The West Monroe study demonstrates consumer preferences, particularly among younger, tech-savvy patients, are moving away from traditional office visits toward more digital, mobile interactions that heighten convenience and efficiency. While these patients are expecting their healthcare experiences to transcend the annual checkup, healthcare providers and insurers are not keeping up with demand. In fact, 85 percent of healthcare insurance executives say they are not confident they have the right technology in place to help transform the customer experience to meet these new demands, while 54 percent say they don’t have the processes necessary to evolve that experience.
“Healthcare providers realize the impact of digital communication channels and are beginning to adapt,” explained Will Hinde, senior director at West Monroe Partners. “We’re starting to see more providers incorporate the digital experience with their office visit, by shifting to more online scheduling of appointments, paperless office interactions, following up via email, portals, and mobile apps and taking steps towards greater cost and quality transparency.”
The study also found roughly 70 percent of healthcare insurers currently offer rewards programs built around data collected from consumers’ health tracking devices and apps, but that less than half (48 percent) of consumers completely trust their healthcare provider with their personal information.
“Health insurers should take cues from the retail and banking industries,” says Kyle Hutchins, senior director of Customer Experience at West Monroe Partners. “From booking an appointment to receiving an explanation of benefits, healthcare organizations wanting to keep up with today’s pace of change must have an agile operating model. They also need to start building cross-functional teams and redefining HR hiring practices.”