Consumers who consistently use digital and mobile healthcare tools prefer an online interaction to anything more traditional, says a new survey from consulting and research firm West Monroe Partners.
The survey of 1,300 consumers reveals that 86% of consumers who have access to an online portal use that portal for some or all of their communication with their healthcare provider and 91% of survey respondents are big users of mobile apps. In fact 80% of patients who have used a mobile app to communicate with a doctor or other clinicians prefer the app to a regular office visit.
“Healthcare providers are realizing the impact of digital communication channels and are beginning to adapt,” says West Monroe senior director of healthcare Will Hinde. “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 and following up via e-mail, portals and mobile apps.”
Younger consumers, especially millennials, are the age group most embracing digital and mobile healthcare, says the West Monroe survey. For example, 49% of millennials (consumers 18-34) communicate with their doctor via e-mail compared with 30% of Baby Boomers (consumers 52-70). At 39% and 23%, respectively, more millennials text their doctor and actively use a healthcare provider’s web site. In comparison only 9% of Baby Boomers text their physician and 15% use the provider’s web site. Millennials (22%) also are more likely than Baby Boomers (9%) to use a mobile app.
Despite the fact that more consumers are using digital and mobile healthcare tools to manage their wellness and health business affairs, a section of the West Monroe survey finds that many insurance companies aren’t currently meeting customer demand for more online services.
For example, 85% of health insurance executives are not sure their company has the technology in place to advance their customers’ experience online. What’s more at 92% and 83%, respectively, most insurers communicate with consumers primarily by e-mail and phone. That compares with 33% that use a web portal to interact with health plan members and 22% that use text messaging.
“A personalized communication model built around phone, mail, and e-mail is not a future-focused approach,” Hinde says. “To retain and attract digitally inclined customers, providers need to extend personalization to online portals, mobile apps and popular messaging platforms.”
Healthcare insurance executives are also challenged by consumers’ reluctance to disclose personal data. Given the volume of healthcare-based cyberattacks over the past few years, less than half of consumers (48%) completely trust their provider with their personal information, according to the survey.
In many instances, consumers are willing to put aside their privacy concerns if rewarded with better rates and a higher quality of service, says West Monroe senior director of customer experience Kyle Hutchins. But only 8% of healthcare insurers offer discounted rates in exchange for participation, while none offer direct discounts on products or services, he says.
“Health insurers should take cues from the retail and banking industries,” Hutchins says. “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.”