Patients Have Higher Expectations Since COVID-19

Physicians must embrace the digital era of healthcare to improve the patient experience.

Since COVID-19, patients have higher expectations for their physicians, according to the findings of a recent survey conducted by SymphonyRM.

What’s more, 23% of survey respondents said their opinion of their physician changed since the onset of the pandemic, and nearly 20% were considering changing their physician based on how they handled COVID-19. And the top reason patients lost confidence in their healthcare professional during the pandemic was infrequent communication about COVID-19.

“Our research found that, although many health systems and doctors rose to the challenge of connecting patients with the information they needed about their health and the virus, many Americans were left behind and did not receive the same level of communication and engagement,” Michael Linnert, chief executive officer of SymphonyRM, said in a press release. “These findings reveal what we at SymphonyRM have long known: People want doctors to send more consistent and actionable information about their health, such as preventive screenings and proactive health tips. The pandemic appears to have confirmed people’s expectations.”

It appeared as though organizations had difficulty communicating and connecting with patients to provide reliable information when the need was significant. Results of the survey determined only 49% of Americans received general information about COVID-19 from their physician and just 35% received communication about the vaccine.

Patients wanted to receive health-related information outside of office visits. The findings highlighted that 42% of respondents wanted general health and wellness tips and 41% wanted scheduling options for preventive screenings. Some 40% of patients wanted to know about appointment availability, while 37% were interested in updates about the COVID-19 vaccine.

And patients of all ages wanted more proactive communication. Based on the survey, 51% of patients aged 45-54 years old said they wanted better communication with their physicians and 49% of those aged 18-24 years old agreed.

Patients reported they received more communications from their favorite retail brand than engagement messages from their physician. There are plenty of data healthcare workers can leverage to interact with patients, but this is not seen as frequently in the space as it is in retail.

“Doctors and health systems can learn strategies from consumer-facing brands for engaging consumers and driving action,” Linnert said. “Those just starting out on their patient engagement journey, or even those that are further along, can look at brands like Amazon to identify tactics to which today’s healthcare consumers will respond.”

Without healthcare teams being proactive, 43% of patients missed a preventive care appointment during the past year despite 71% saying they would likely schedule such an appointment if prompted by their physician.

There are heightened expectations since COVID-19 struck. Patients want digital appointment scheduling (58%), proactive communication (57%), and virtual appointments (54%).

The survey, which was conducted online in May 2021, included responses from a broad distribution of more than 1,100 consumers in the U.S. It can be found here.