How Patient Behaviours Are Changing
Updated: Mar 2
In November 2019, we published a blog, Patient Engagement: Lessons from mHealth Adolescence. We highlighted the importance Patient Engagement would have in re-shaping the healthcare landscape but also that you'd be forgiven for assuming that we are well into our stride now in the digital health revolution. Little did we know that would all change with COVID-19.
Coronavirus has drastically changed patient behaviours and has driven many healthcare providers to re-think how they support and manage their patients remotely. In June of last year, Accenture Health released a research report detailing how COVID-19 has altered patient behaviours. They suggested that because of COVID-19, 70% of patients deferred or cancelled their scheduled treatments & 82% of surveyed patients said they felt at least slightly afraid. Which begs the question, why?
The level of fear and anxiety among patients has increased significantly because of the lack of face-to-face consultations between them and their healthcare professional. As highlighted previously, Accenture found that over 80% of surveyed patients said "they felt at least slightly afraid" as a result of COVID-19. Research has shown that rising levels of anxiety in patients affects both their mental wellbeing and their decision making, leading to poorer health outcomes. Patient engagement technology adds valuable opportunities for engagement outside of a scheduled consultation by providing additional avenues for digital communication between the patient and the provider.
One area that has continued to see an explosion in uptake since the start of this pandemic has been Telehealth. In the UK, Telehealth and video consultations were said to have made up about 1% of the 340 million primary care visits to doctors or nurses before the pandemic hit. Since then, it has quickly become essential in most primary care settings, with some GP practices operating at 99% virtual based care. Healthcare providers experienced ten years of digital transformation in a few weeks because of the urgent need for digital health technology. Patients are already increasing their use of digital platforms to manage their health with 44% saying they "used new devices or apps to help manage their conditions remotely during COVID". This increase in adoption will likely increase their appetite for more digital engagement now and in the future.
Before COVID-19, digital health providers faced many barriers to adoption. One of those obstacles has been the overarching belief that older age demographics are not as tech-savvy as others and therefore slower to adopt healthcare technology. The initial fear was that older generations would not be prepared to adopt the necessary technology to help fight against coronavirus, but studies showed that this wasn't the case. In England, pre-pandemic Accenture research highlighted that 45% of baby boomers (57-74) and the same portion of over 75s were willing to receive virtual care from traditional providers, more than 42% of Gen Z (19-23). In the US, Mobiquity's The Rise in Digital Adoption Among Baby Boomers stated that baby boomers are comfortable using mobile apps to manage their health. Before the pandemic, the use of a digital app designed to improve health was at 40% but now sits at 54%, highlighting the desire from older Americans for digital technology to help improve their health outcomes.
The pandemic has fast-tracked the introduction of patient engagement technology for many healthcare organisations. We are beginning to see the positive impact it is having and will continue to have for patients, who ultimately matter most. Technology like this allows providers to reach their patients to deliver personalised care that is convenient for them. With rising expectations and changing behaviours brought about by the pandemic, care organisations utilising patient engagement technology will continue to promote better health outcomes for their patients throughout this pandemic and beyond.