A new Salesforce Research survey suggests patients are heavily valuing healthcare and life science companies that provide better consumer experiences.

Healthcare consumers are seeking clear communications, tech-enabled access to care

By Dave Muoio
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Due to their increasingly personalized and convenient experiences with other sectors, consumers have high expectations when it comes to the services they’re receiving from the healthcare industry, according to a new global survey from Salesforce Research of nearly 6,000 consumers.

Unfortunately, nearly half (47%) of those polled believe that the healthcare and life sciences are less focused on the needs of patients than they are the needs of the industry, with many expressing a desire for more relevant communications, fewer barriers to care and a greater emphasis on their experience as a consumer.

“Many healthcare consumers have navigated a fragmented landscape where communication is impersonal and transactions are complicated and time-consuming,” the report’s authors wrote. “Consumers are excited by emerging solutions that hold the promise for expanding access to and quality of care. To unlock the full potential of these data-powered technologies, the healthcare and life sciences industries must work toward building consumer trust.”

TOPLINE DATA

By and large, the survey indicated a need for providers, insurers, medical device companies and pharmas alike to improve their communication to patients. The last two in particular had the most room for improvement — for medical device companies, only 28% of respondents said that communications felt relevant, and 38% said that they understood the communications. For pharmas, these rates were 27% and 33%, respectively.

But while providers and insurers fared better, there was still some room for improvement. Communications from providers were deemed relevant for just 38% of respondents and understandable for 46%, with these numbers dropping a hair to 32% and 44% for communications from insurers.

Meanwhile, these consumers are also expecting healthcare messaging and services alike to be more engaging and accessible, often through the use of digital technologies.

Sixty-nine percent said that it was important to offer SMS or text communications, while 55% valued live chats or instant messages and 38% called for video chat options. These numbers each skewed higher among younger respondents, who seem to especially value real-time communication options.

In terms of access and reducing barriers to care, 52% of respondents said they were interested in healthcare voice assistants, 68% live health coaches, 68% mobile apps for health coaching, and 76% in-home visits. Interestingly, 82% of all respondents said it was important that these healthcare stakeholders offer personalized web portals for consumers (noteworthy when considering how often a glut of these interfaces are highlighted as a detriment to patient experience). Similarly, consumers highlighted a number of social determinant-related barriers impacting their ability to receive care, such as treatment payment (39%), mental and emotional wellbeing (34%), a need to take time off work (29%) and transportation to an appointment (30%).

The report also highlighted an emphasis on a consumer’s overall experience, noting that these expectations somewhat varied between healthcare sectors. Eighty-two percent of respondents reported that they would switch their provider due to a bad experience, while 67% said they would do something similar following a bad insurance experience. The report notes that these sentiments fall in line with prior Salesforce Research surveys, which found that many consumers valued their experience with an overall company equally to that entity’s actual products, and that an “extraordinary” experience with one company will raise their expectations with others regardless of industry.

HOW IT WAS DONE

Salesforce Research conducted a double-blind survey from July to August of this year. The polling yielded responses from 5,984 consumers living in the US, Brazil, Australia, Japan and several European countries. All respondents were at least 18 years old, and were divided into three age demographics (born 1981- 2000, born 1965-1980, born before 1965) for certain analyses.

THE LARGER TREND

The emphasis on clearer communications and positive experiences echoes healthcare strategies increasingly cropping up amidst the consumerization of care movement. Many of these healthcare consumer asks were also highlighted in a recent report from Kyruus, while another survey published last month by Survata stressed how frustrating digital experiences will likely drive away healthcare consumers — particularly if they are younger.

ON THE RECORD

"One of the highlights from the Connected Healthcare Consumer report is that personalized experiences in industries like retail are elevating expectations from healthcare consumers for connectivity and digitalization," Dr. Ashwini Zenooz, SVP and general manager for healthcare and life sciences at Salesforce, told MobiHealthNews in a statement. "Nearly seven in 10 consumers say one extraordinary experience raises their expectations of all other companies — regardless of industry. This is one of the many findings from the report that support the evolving consumer expectations we see transforming the entire healthcare ecosystem."