The era of digital health. Soon it will be just the era of health. Digital is becoming so intertwined with health care that it’s now to be expected by patients. While it may have taken a pandemic to drive clinical adoption of digital health tools, has the pandemic really changed the way patients want to interact with their providers? The uncomplicated answer is…yes. The 2021 HIMSS survey, “Patient Communication Preferences in 2021,” released by SR Health, shows that patients do want more digital tools, especially text messaging, and that age continues to be less of a barrier to electronic forms of communication.
Digital patient access has significantly evolved throughout the pandemic, and consumer decisions have developed along with it. Health systems are continually under pressure to provide convenient access to care for patients while tightly managing operational costs. At the same time, patients (consumers) have taken a more active role in educating themselves and directly managing their health. In the traditional settings of healthcare, patients were not involved in decision-making about their health and disease management. This began to shift dramatically in the 2010s with the digitalization of healthcare tools and services. In the last decade, we have changed care models by virtualizing medicine, where it makes clinical and economic sense. More than 80 percent of consumers are now researching their healthcare options. As a result, new technologies provide consumers with new ways to engage in healthy living and manage certain conditions. In other words, technology is empowering consumers to take control of their health.
The pandemic has definitely pushed the fast-forward button on the use of some key technologies that patients wanted but providers were slow to adopt. Patients want more regular and immediate interactions with providers and to be more engaged in their overall healthcare and wellbeing. Nothing is more effective for that kind of communication than text. Ideally, today, every healthcare interaction should begin with a text message.Josh Weiner, CEO | SR Health by Solutionreach
Research for the 2021 HIMSS survey, “Patient Communication Preferences in 2021,” was conducted in March 2021 to understand how U.S. consumers:
- Expect regular communication from their healthcare providers
- Have communicated with healthcare providers before and during the pandemic
- Prefer to be communicated with post-pandemic
A total of 250 people completed the survey in March 2021. Consumers qualified for the survey by having an in-person, video, phone call, or text message communication with a healthcare provider in the past 12 months. The survey pool represented a wide range of consumers along with gender, age, and other census demographics. This was a blind data collection effort, and no vendors were named.
The key takeaways from the survey were:
More frequent communication is expected from healthcare providers
- Approximately half of the patients expect more regular communication
- Nearly 7-in-10 agreed that they want to receive healthcare text messages for things like:
- Appointment confirmations
- Appointment reminders
- Previsit instructions
- Care instructions
- Test result notifications (texts letting the patient know that test results are available in the patient portal)
Emailing and texting healthcare providers has grown, with nearly half of patients responding they prefer to interact with healthcare providers via text
- Post pandemic, nearly half of patients prefer to communicate with their healthcare providers via text messages
- Those with a household income of $100,000-plus, under age 50, and females prefer text messages most often
Respondents 50 years old + want to receive text messages from their healthcare providers
- The majority of patients ages 50-plus want to receive healthcare text messages for things like:
- Appointment confirmations
- Appointment reminders
- Pre-visit instructions
- Care instructions
- Notifications for test results being available in their patient portal
More than 1/3 of patients would be willing to change providers to receive more modern communication (i.e., real-time text messaging)
- 64% – under the age of 50
- 33% – 50 +
The Patient of the Future
Consumer engagement has become increasingly important for all healthcare industry stakeholders. Health care consumers want high-quality care that is easily accessible and affordable. The theory of health care consumers is that they take ownership of care decisions based upon costs, understand the full scope of options available to them based on research and trustworthy sources of information, and leverage their use of technologies.
Confidence in digital health technologies’ and tools’ potential continues to progress as health systems continue to invest in a more digital health care experience – focusing on connecting with, communicating with, and monitoring patients outside the health system’s walls. And while some of the pandemic’s impact on consumer choice may be short-term, it’s apparent that the pandemic perpetually re-shaped patient preferences and expectations in meaningful ways.
As more health systems adopt a digital health business strategy, future reports will find healthcare organizations offering digital tools more efficiently and greater utilization of these devices and services by patients. This new research by SR Health supports past studies that have shown patients have been steadily moving toward a desire for more digital communication and ongoing connection with healthcare providers. It also challenges preconceived notions that age or location reduce people’s interest in options like text messaging.
About SR Health
SR Health by Solutionreach is transforming healthcare through communication by making it accessible, modern, and personal. By helping providers create the Perfect Appointment Workflow that connects them with patients throughout the care journey, healthcare organizations can optimize health and financial outcomes while creating a better patient experience. Solutionreach is the leader in patient engagement solutions and innovation. The first to send a text message in healthcare, the company now serves over 25,000 customers and facilitates one billion messages a year to 80 million patients in the U.S.
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