The digital doctor is in. What makes patients stick around?

Author
Teun Schutte
Publication Date
5 October 2021

The digital doctor is in. What makes patients stick around?

It’s no longer “news” that the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated digital transformation. Consumer behaviors and preferences shifted seemingly overnight as people sought safe, convenient ways to get the products and services they needed.

As the proverbial dust started to settle, Mobiquity surveyed consumers about their digital behaviors across the banking, property and casualty insurance, restaurant and convenience store, and healthcare industries.

We wanted to understand to what extent consumers shifted to digital interactions – and how their satisfaction with those experiences affects their loyalty. We discovered that across industries and age groups, consumers are more likely to switch companies or providers than ever before and that their digital experiences do factor into whether or not they seek new options. Healthcare is no exception.

How does healthcare compare to other high consumer engagement categories? Here’s what you need to know.

Uptake of healthcare versus other digital tools

After using a website to order takeout, digitally engaging with a physician was the #1 new behavior among the consumers and across the industries we surveyed. Just over half (51%) of consumers said they had increased their use of telemedicine appointments and nearly half (45%) used a patient portal to communicate with their provider more than they used to. Slightly smaller percentages told us they increased usage of a mobile app to manage their health (37%), a mobile app to find the lowest price for a prescription (28%), and/or a smart watch to monitor their health (27%).

Interestingly, we found that greater use of healthcare patient portals was similar in both age segments. Among consumers aged 18 to 55, 45% reported greater use of a patient portal; 41% of those 56+ said the same. The difference is more pronounced when it comes to mobile healthcare apps, with nearly twice as many younger consumers using these tools (37% vs. 19%).

Satisfaction with healthcare digital tools

Satisfaction with digital tools to manage health was consistent with what we saw in most industries, indicating that patients view digital health tools generally on par with digital experiences they are having in other areas of their lives but also indicating room for improvement. Interestingly, we saw relatively consistent satisfaction among users regardless of their age. 

Looking at the tools we explored, smart watches (70% of consumers are satisfied) edged out both patient portals (68%) and telemedicine appointments (67%) in customer satisfaction. Satisfaction levels are similar with mobile apps for managing health as well as connected devices like scales or blood pressure cuffs (64% for both) and mobile apps for finding lowest-price prescriptions (63%). Just over half of consumers (52%) reported satisfaction with using hands-free devices or voice assistants like Alexa to manage a health condition which demonstrates some real opportunity in this area.

Drivers of loyalty

Despite this uptake of digital tools, 80% still prefer face-to-face contact when talking to their doctor - the highest preference for in person interactions that we saw across all industries. That said, digital solutions may well be the key to enabling more patient and physician communication in the future. 

  •   95% of consumers prioritize ease of asking questions and getting responses from a provider, an area where digital tools are particularly well suited to help.
  •   93% cite a provider spending adequate time to help them feel confident in their care plan. If efficient options such as telemedicine appointments or digital assessment tools become more widely available in the future, this could have a substantial impact on the ability of doctors to spend more time with the patients who really need it and make sure they are getting clear and credible diagnosis.
  •   88% prize thorough, ongoing medication reviews which are much easier to disseminate using digital platforms than traditional, manual methods.

Digital drivers of loyalty in healthcare include having positive reviews online (79%) and offering an easy-to-use website or portal (75%).

Age appears to play a big part in how much importance healthcare consumers ascribe to a provider’s website/portal or mobile app. Consumers aged 18 to 55 place significantly more value on their mobile app experience. While fifty-nine percent describe healthcare mobile apps as important in the decision to stay with their current provider, the percentage is 17 points lower among those 56 and older (42%).

Diagnosis: Digital opportunity

Our research suggests there’s still a lot of room to make digital health tools better. The findings point to opportunities to design digital experiences that enable lengthier appointments and more opportunities for patient engagement and education. Providers could use voice and chat solutions to facilitate faster, easier provider-to-patient communications. Similarly,  24/7 digital urgent care could provide guidance late at night, helping patients decide whether to head to the hospital for emergency care.

Given the findings about 18- to 55-year-olds valuing mobile apps, investing in high-quality apps will become increasingly important as younger consumers age. Meanwhile, as connected medical devices enable remote patient monitoring, there may be fewer needs for formal in-person and telemedicine visits. We expect to see healthcare become more proactive and more seamlessly integrated into patients’ day-to-day lives. Providers will need the right healthcare digital tools for connecting with patients – and devices – to deliver safe, quality care.

Ready to explore digital tools for healthcare? Let’s talk.

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