By Briana Contreras

Deloitte, a consulting firm, recently released new data on consumer behaviors towards healthcare and how those behaviors changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in a survey.

The report on Deloitte’s biennial Center for Health Solutions Survey of U.S Consumers shows a significant increase in virtual care visits versus pre-pandemic trends, and a reversal in consumers’ willingness to share health data following the COVID-19 pandemic. From 2018 to 2020, there was a decrease in consumers’ willingness to share their data in all the areas measured, except for healthcare research, which stayed steady. However, during the pandemic, the study showed an increase in consumer willingness to share data in every scenario measured.

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the healthcare system upside down and challenged consumers’ sense of well-being, according to the report. In other words, consumers are taking charge of their health more than ever before. They are learning about their health risks, communicating with their doctors in new and different ways, and changing their attitudes about data privacy.

According to the report, Deloitte gained an understanding of current U.S. consumer behaviors and attitudes through its Deloitte Center for Health Solutions’ “2020 Survey of US Health Care Consumers.”

Some key findings from the survey are consumers using virtual visits rose from 15% to 19% from 2019 to early 2020; this jumped to 28% in April 2020. On average, 80% are likely to have another virtual visit, even post COVID-19.

When asked to rank the most important factors for an ideal experience with their doctor, in 2020, 44% of consumers ranked “a doctor or health care provider who listens to me and shows they care about me” as the No. 1 factor.

After a decline in willingness to share data before COVID-19, Deloitte’s most recent survey shows that consumers are more comfortable sharing data during a crisis. When asked how willing they would be to share personal health information as a result of the crisis, consumers were in favor across a variety of measures:

Along with in-person visits, consumers expect their virtual visits to be high quality and with clinicians who listen, take their time, and treat them well. The 2020 survey found among consumers who wouldn’t have another virtual care visit, one-third said quality of care was not as good as with their regular doctor, and 1 in 5 said they did not like the way the clinician treated them.

Even as consumers use virtual visits and other non-traditional settings, they still expect trusting relationships and pleasant experiences with their clinicians. This is particularly true for people with chronic conditions, as they are most likely to value a sustained relationship.

In early 2020, 51% of consumers said they were very or extremely likely to tell their doctors when they disagree with them. More than half of seniors and boomers are likely to be vocal about their disagreement versus half/less than half of younger generations — 63% of seniors and 57% of boomers versus 50% of Gen X and 46% of millennials and Gen Z.

When asked to rank the most important factors for an ideal experience with their doctor earlier this year:

“To maintain or even re-earn the trust of consumers during such an unprecedented time in our history, healthcare organizations should demonstrate reliability, transparency, and most importantly, a sense of empathy in how they conduct operations moving forward,” says David Betts, principal of Deloitte Consulting LLP. “As consumers consider their options for where they’ll get their care, health care leaders should consider addressing multigenerational health and equity challenges, help reduce uncertainty and enable more virtual, compassionate, equitable, predictive, and preventative care.”

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