Press Ganey, a national leader in healthcare consumer and workforce engagement, has released its 2021 Consumer Experience Trends in Healthcare report. The publication includes key drivers behind current healthcare consumer behaviors and strategies for health care leaders to strengthen their digital footprint in 2022 and beyond. In short, the report found that delivering a five-star experience is essential as online reviews are the most decisive factor in a patient’s choice to schedule an appointment with a provider.
The Healthcare Consumer Experience
Change has long been a constant in healthcare, but it has dramatically accelerated in recent years. Digital health tools that facilitate innovative methods and modalities to improve care, enable lifestyle change, and create efficiencies are progressing quickly. The digitalization of healthcare provides a better healthcare delivery experience for both patients and clinicians. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, consumer interest in using digital solutions to engage with their healthcare team rose. As digital technologies become more of the norm in healthcare, there’s an opportunity to rethink how to do healthcare by embedding the changes that have worked well during the pandemic.
As digital consumerism in healthcare accelerates, expectations for the patient experience continue to evolve equally. The patient experience can no longer be defined alone by the clinical care setting. Today, the patient experience encompasses every step of the healthcare journey, including navigating the web, scheduling, billing, insurance, and beyond. The digital behaviors that gained momentum in recent years have been hard-coded into the patient journey. In the wake of COVID-19 and going beyond 2022, healthcare organizations must commit to a digital- and consumer-focused strategy to shape the patient experience.
Consumer Experience Trends in Healthcare 2021 – Press Ganey
In September 2021, Press Ganey surveyed 1,000+ consumers to unlock insights into how they approach their journey to care. The findings provide a roadmap for accelerating digital transformation in 2022 and converting more care seekers into happy, loyal patients.
Failure to review the consumer experience at every touchpoint can negatively influence a healthcare organization’s brand, reputation, and revenue. The Press Ganey 2021 Consumer Experience Trends in Healthcare report focuses on the following topics:
- Digital drives choice: Patients rely on digital resources 2.2x more than provider referrals when choosing a healthcare provider.
- Referral leakage: 84% would not see a referred provider if rated under four stars.
- The rise of virtual health: Over 1/3 of patients have used telehealth in the past year—a 337.6% increase since 2019.
- Patient as a customer: Assuming quality care, patients rate “customer service” (70.8%) and “communication” (63.4%) as more important than even “bedside manner” when it comes to a 5-star experience.
- Shopping for healthcare: On average, consumers use three different websites during their healthcare research process and read 5½ reviews before deciding.
As pointed out in the Press Ganey report, the digital experience doesn’t stop there. Patient acquisition and loyalty are increasingly dependent upon the digital healthcare experience throughout every touchpoint along the patient journey. According to the analysis:
- All generations are increasingly shopping online for healthcare. 44% of baby boomers and 60% of millennials and Gen Z prefer researching healthcare providers on their smartphone or tablet, representing a 27% and 13% increase from 2019, respectively.
- Digital drives patient choice. Patients rely on digital resources more than twice as much as provider referrals when choosing a healthcare provider. On average, consumers use three different websites during their healthcare research process and five reviews before deciding.
- Search engines are just the start. Consumers rely on a brand’s website, WebMD, Healthgrades, and Facebook to research providers among the top five websites used.
- Online reviews prevent referral leakage. 83% of patients go online to read reviews about a provider after receiving a referral. 84% would not see their referred provider if they had less than a four-star rating.
- Customer service is the new bedside manner. Assuming quality care is received, patients rate “customer service” (71%) and “communication” (64%) as more important than even “bedside manner” when it comes to rating a five-star experience.
- Telehealth isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. More than one-third of patients have used telehealth in the past year—a 38% increase since 2019—and usage surged among baby boomers during the same period.
The Continued Adoption of Digital Health Technologies
As other reports and studies have identified, the Press Ganey report finds that consumers and industry leaders agree that technology improves health outcomes and increases care access. Digital technologies have rapidly penetrated many aspects of consumers’ interactions with their health care team, including how they make care decisions and interact with their health plans. Additionally, these technologies are benefitting the patient experience and increasing patient confidence. Driving adoption today will pave the way for more widespread future smart technologies.
Referencing the Press Ganey report, consumers rely heavily on digital channels when selecting a provider. Today, 51.1% of patients turn to the web when choosing a new primary care provider (PCP), while 23.8% first seek referrals from another healthcare provider and 4.4% from an insurance or benefits manager.
In this era of empowered healthcare, consumers expect easy and streamlined access to care. Given these high expectations, more people (54.4%) consider their healthcare journey difficult today than in 2019 (50.4%). According to respondents in the Press Ganey report, the top three challenges in finding a healthcare provider are 1) appointment availability, 2) finding an in-network doctor, and 3) taking too much time.
Key Considerations – Learnings from the Consumer Experience Report
As healthcare leaders prepare for the year ahead, one thing is clear: Organizations must prioritize their digital consumerism strategies to keep up with current expectations and successfully acquire and retain patients for years to come.
According to the Press Ganey report, healthcare organizations should consider the following takeaways to optimize digital touchpoints in 2022 and beyond:
- Search is provider-first: To improve the organization’s brand and visibility, ensure provider listings are accurate and complete. Consumers use provider listings to determine their selection.
- Digitize access: Difficulty contacting the office is the #1 reason patients won’t book with a selected provider. By providing online appointment booking options, you avoid losing new patients to long hold times and improve patient satisfaction.
- Protect referrals with reviews: Prevent potential referral leakage by implementing reviews at the provider level. Don’t worry about volume: Since patients place a premium on the authenticity of reviews, consider leveraging existing patient experience surveys as a part of your online reputation strategy.
- Look beyond the digital front door: Consumers will interact with your organization across myriad touchpoints online—many of which lie outside your website domain. Assess the health and quality of your entire digital footprint,—which is the sum of your location and provider listings across the web. Focus on optimizing listings on healthcare review sites like Healthgrades, which see a high patient conversion rate.
- Embrace a customer service mindset: Since excellent customer service is a crucial driver of loyalty and high online ratings, leverage frequent “front office” engagement surveys to drive effective performance improvement strategies.
Healthcare providers deserve technology that lets them focus on what matters: patient care. And consumers deserve technologies that are as passive as possible. The key to successful behavior change is developing habits that make change more accessible.
About the Press Ganey 2021 Consumer Experience Trends in Healthcare Report
The research was commissioned by Press Ganey and conducted through an independent third-party market research agency during September 2021. Press Ganey’s survey depicts findings from 1,140 U.S. adult respondents representing various demographics across multiple regions, income levels, genders, and ages. Findings were benchmarked against the results of a 2019 survey to determine essential shifts in trends.
About Press Ganey
Press Ganey pioneered the health care performance improvement movement 35 years ago. Today Press Ganey offers an integrated suite of solutions that enable enterprise transformation across the patient journey. Delivered through a cutting-edge digital platform built on a foundation of data security, Press Ganey solutions address safety, clinical excellence, patient experience and workforce engagement. The company works with more than 41,000 health care facilities in its mission to reduce patient suffering and enhance caregiver resilience to improve the overall safety, quality and experience of care.