How digital preferences define the modern healthcare consumer

In an age of digital evolution and expanding care options, what today’s healthcare consumer wants is changing. Technologies and tools like artificial intelligence (AI), automation, and advanced analytics offer promise for innovation, but these investments won’t yield the transformation organizations need to keep patients healthy and satisfied without understanding the nuances that shape consumer choice and loyalty.

Huron’s recent survey of 3,000 U.S. consumers details how preferences are evolving and what consumerism trends are influencing healthcare. From the research, four key findings emerge.

Majority of healthcare consumers are moderately to hyper-digital

Huron’s research identified six distinct consumer segments with unique preferences and varying levels of digital adoption for how they engage with their healthcare provider. While some favored traditional care approaches, nearly 60% of consumers surveyed were classified as moderately to hyper-digital based on their preferences and use of digital tools and services. Those who were more digitally inclined reported higher levels of engagement with health services, indicating a more active role in their care journey.

To personalize the care experience, organizations can focus on developing an omnichannel communication strategy, providing a diverse mix of virtual and in-person services, and expanding access to meet consumers where they’re most comfortable.

Apps and devices paramount to managing personal health and wellness

Consumers are exploring new ways to proactively manage their health and personalize their care experience to meet their health needs and goals. While digital preferences vary across consumer segments, overall technology adoption continues to increase. More than 80% of consumers cite virtual care as important, while nearly half reported using digital apps at least once a week to manage their health and wellness. Among the top five digital apps and devices used, three tied back to accessibility and communication: online portals or mobile apps for scheduling and medical record access, texting options for appointment management, and telehealth or virtual visit services.

While consumer-facing apps and tools are core to healthcare organization’s digital transformation strategies, leaders should be using data analytics to monitor whether their digital offerings are maintaining pace with consumer demand and usage.

Healthcare consumers are open to AI, with some hesitation

Even as AI expands what’s possible and unlocks new levels of productivity and problem-solving, some skepticism remains. While 54% of consumers indicated interest in AI-powered chatbots providing 24/7 medical advice, nearly half of those individuals remain hesitant. Alternatively, 36% of consumers said that they would prefer to speak with a healthcare professional. Respondents had less confidence in AI analyzing their data to develop personalized treatment plans, but support remained strong, with 44% saying they would be very or somewhat comfortable.

As AI adoption grows, leaders should consider the impact of new technology on consumer trust. Careful integration coupled with improved transparency can ease transitions and consumer concerns.

Data transparency necessary to build patient loyalty and trust

Not all physical health information is equal in the eyes of consumers. While some respondents indicated an openness to sharing medical history, test results, and biometric data for lower cost of care and better health outcomes, that willingness plummeted when it came to mental health, genetic, lifestyle, and behavioral information. This presents organizations with an opportunity to build trust and data transparency as consumers demand more proactive, personalized care. More than 60% of consumers said they would be interested in using personal data to predict risk for heart or cardiovascular conditions, and more than half of respondents shared that interest for predicting cancer and diabetes.

Prioritizing data security and establishing clear communication about how patient data is being used as organizations continue to invest in AI, advanced analytics, and other emerging technologies is essential to maintain data privacy compliance and innovate how they deliver care.

Unique preferences, varying levels of digital aptitude, and fluctuating comfort with new technologies all play a crucial role in an individual’s care experience. Understanding how these factors influence the choices and perceptions of the patients and families an organization serves will not only help leaders meet demand today but anticipate the future needs of healthcare consumers.

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