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Rethinking COVID-19 and Healthcare Consumerism

Innovation | 
Outcomes | 

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 4sight Health Author
David Burda News Editor & Columnist

Dave is 4sight Health’s biggest news junkie, resident journalist and healthcare historian. He began covering healthcare in 1983 and hasn’t stopped since. Dave writes his own column, “Burda on Health,” for us, contributes weekly blog posts, and manages our weekly e-newsletter and weekly podcast, 4sight Friday and 4sight Roundup. 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. Follow Burda on Twitter @DavidRBurda and on LinkedIn.