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March 8, 2021
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David Burda
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Rethinking COVID-19 and Healthcare Consumerism

One of my working theories is that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated healthcare consumerism as peoples’ fear of contracting a deadly virus is greater than their fear of navigating the healthcare system using all the new digital health tools at their disposal.

With that theory in mind, I dug into Rock Health’s new Digital Health Consumer Adoption Report 2020, which you can download here

The 39-page report is based on Rock Health’s survey of a representative sample of nearly 8,000 adults between Sept. 4, 2020, and Oct. 2, 2020. Rock Health conducted similar annual surveys starting in 2015.

The survey findings suggest that my working theory is still a work in progress. They show a significant uptick in consumers’ use of digital health tools to visit with providers and monitor their health status. But they also show a slight drop off in consumers’ use of digital health tools to engage in consumer-like behaviors. 

For example:

  • The percentage of respondents who said they had a live video telemedicine visit jumped to 43 percent in 2020 compared with 32 percent in 2019
  • The percentage of respondents who said they own a wearable health device jumped to 43 percent in 2020 compared with 33 percent in 2019
  • And the percentage of respondents who said they engage in digital health tracking jumped to 54 percent in 2020 compared with 42 percent in 2019

Because of the pandemic, “necessity was the mother of adoption,” Rock Health said in its report.

On-the-other-hand:

  • The percentage of respondents who said they used digital health tools to look at provider reviews online dipped to 61 percent in 2020 from 64 percent in 2019
  • And the percentage of respondents who said they used digital health tools to look up health information online dipped to 67 percent in 2020 from 73% in 2019

In sum, COVID-19 spurred more consumers to use electronic options for their own care and fewer to use electronic options to compare providers.  

Rock Health’s survey results are a direct hit on my working theory. But I’m not going to give up on it just yet. The way consumers furiously are typing, clicking and tapping on laptops, tablets and phones to find  COVID vaccine availability and vaccine appointments is teaching them about variations in service quality in healthcare and their ability to make choices based on the information that they’re looking up.

I’m already looking forward to reading the results of next year’s digital health consumer adoption report from Rock Health.

Thanks for reading.

Stay home. Stay safe. Stay alive. The vaccine is coming. Really. Eventually.

About the Author

David Burda

David Burda began covering healthcare in 1983 and hasn’t stopped since. Dave writes this monthly column “Burda on Healthcare,” contributes weekly blog posts, manages our weekly newsletter 4sight Friday, and hosts our weekly Roundup podcast. Dave believes that healthcare is a business like any other business, and customers — patients — are king. If you do what’s right for patients, good business results will follow.

Dave’s personnel experiences with the healthcare system both as a patient and family caregiver have shaped his point of view. It’s also been shaped by covering the industry for 40 years as a reporter and editor. He worked at Modern Healthcare for 25 years, the last 11 as editor.

Prior to Modern Healthcare, he did stints at the American Medical Record Association (now AHIMA) and the American Hospital Association. After Modern Healthcare, he wrote a monthly column for Twin Cities Business explaining healthcare trends to a business audience, and he developed and executed content marketing plans for leading healthcare corporations as the editorial director for healthcare strategies at MSP Communications.

When he’s not reading and writing about healthcare, Dave spends his time riding the trails of DuPage County, IL, on his bike, tending his vegetable garden and daydreaming about being a lobster fisherman in Maine. He lives in Wheaton, IL, with his lovely wife of 40 years and his three children, none of whom want to be journalists or lobster fishermen.

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