Preparing for the Next Normal for Healthcare

Exploring the Evolution of Care Delivery

It is no secret that Covid-19 has upended nearly all aspects of life. Travel is down, dining is re-imagined, and the living room has become the new classroom. There is an endless list of life changes that we have all experienced.

One key area that is in the midst of an evolution is healthcare. Care delivery is no longer synonymous with long waits in a doctor’s office thanks to telehealth, which has allowed patients to receive care with not much more than an internet connection.

Telehealth has made care delivery possible in an age of social distancing. Increasingly, systems are becoming more sophisticated, patients are more educated, and options are proliferating.

The next stage of planning for providers will focus on the right care mix to meet the needs of a specific audience. And this care mix will require consumer trust of all players involved.

 

Telehealth Offerings Address Unmet Needs

At the start of the pandemic, many healthcare providers maintained the technological tools to deploy telehealth solutions as a care option for patients. And patients responded positively, embracing this new type of care. In our June 2020 CARAVAN study, we found that 44% of patients reported avoiding the doctor’s office or hospital because of the crisis for fear of getting sick as a result of a visit.

Through our most recent CARAVAN study of over 1,000 consumers (patients), we found that Americans are open to exploring telehealth more as a service in 2021, driven by convenience, ease of use, safety and their trust in providers.

Our January 2021 study showed that prior to the pandemic, most Americans received care in-person at their doctor’s office (62%). However, since the start of the pandemic (~March 2020), nearly one-third (29%) have used telehealth for the first time and 21% acknowledge using it more frequently.

In the past, telehealth was most frequently used for more ‘transactional’ healthcare needs – such as a quick dermatologist exam or to refill a prescription. Now, both care and technology have become more sophisticated, so telehealth is being used for a cross-section of care needs. Moving in to 2021, more Americans expect to use telehealth for clinical health issues (24%), psychiatry (15%) and nutrition consultation (11%). Telehealth platforms have opened the door for holistic care, wellness, and support.

Outside of telehealth specifically, there are other healthcare related technologies that are helping to enhance the patient experience. Online pharmacies have helped to build efficiencies in drug delivery and 13% of Americans expect to use them more, with obtaining lower prices as a key reason for use. In-home diagnostic testing and app-based support for diet and exercise are also gaining steam with Americans expecting to use them even more (10% and 9% respectively).

In healthcare, as in many other areas of life, necessity breeds innovation and we see telehealth applications becoming an attractive alternative to meet patient concerns. Beyond the effects from the pandemic, there are several key reasons that are pushing Americans to use telehealth and other care technologies even more in 2021, including:

    • They are convenient (53%)
    • They are easier to use (41%)
    • They make me feel protected/safe (40%)
    • The interactions are more personalized (29%)

Nearly 50% of doctors are now using telehealth to treat patients as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to change how physicians deliver care. The analyst firm Frost & Sullivan predicts a 64.3% nationwide uptick in demand for telehealth this year due to the health crisis. Looking ahead, Frost & Sullivan believes that the U.S. telehealth market will see sevenfold growth by 2025.[1]

 

Healthcare Providers Have a Leg Up with Trust

When thinking of the broader ecosystem of healthcare, there are a vast number of players—from insurance companies, to providers and the technology that supports all interactions with patients. With several players, it is important to assess trust to evaluate the right approach for new solutions.

When evaluating trust in delivering new healthcare services and options, Americans trust healthcare providers the most (53%). Health insurance companies and employers are not viewed as trustworthy at 6% and 4% respectively, which scores even lower than research Americans perform on their own online

Beyond introducing new products, overall, Americans trust healthcare providers over other healthcare industry players. When considering all healthcare industry players, insurers edge out tech companies in terms of overall trustworthiness at 33% vs. 31%, both falling far behind providers Bearing in mind the large gap in trust between providers and insurance companies/tech providers, any new solutions or innovations will likely need to be partnerships with tech producers and healthcare providers, leveraging the strong relationships that have been built with healthcare consumers. Additional efforts will need to be made by insurers and technology providers alike to build brand trust among consumers.

 

Exploring New Healthcare Offers and Solutions

The current healthcare landscape is not only evolving before our eyes, but also creating more space for future solutions. Looking at healthcare solutions that Americans would like to explore but do not exist today, two top the list – no wait urgent care clinics and in-home diagnostics through a pharmacy came in at 21% each. Following these were pharmacy/healthcare needs on the channels where I shop online (18%) and instant, on-demand telehealth services (17%).

If we take a closer look at urgent care centers, we see a care system that has emerged as convenient, centrally located, and often quicker than traditional care models. Americans have responded favorably to the urgent care model, and the number of care centers are evolving rapidly to meet the increased demand.

In fact, the number of urgent care centers has grown from approximately 6,100 in 2013 to over 9,600 in 2019- representing a 57% increase in the number of centers over the 6-year period.[2]

In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, in-home diagnostic testing is likely to increase as well. The U.S. has become a hub of the home diagnostics market. Disease prevention, in some cases, can help avoid expensive healthcare, and home diagnostics kits serve as a cost-effective medium for this cause.[3]

 

Taking a look at new innovations in the market

  • Amazon works to meet your pharmaceutical needs: In 2018, Amazon acquired digital pharmacy PillPack for $750m, which consequently sent shockwaves through the entire pharmaceutical industry. The PillPack deal allowed the tech giant to get an initial foothold in the market, which it could then build on. In October 2020, during a record year for Amazon, the online retailer launched two new pharmacy offerings: Amazon Pharmacy and an Amazon Prime prescription discount benefit.[4] Amazon is in a very unique position of maintaining immense amounts of client data that it can further leverage as it deepens its hold in the pharmaceutical space.
  • In-home diagnostic tests empower patients: In-home diagnostic tests have been in the marketplace for years, and Covid-19 has pushed the need for in-home and on-demand testing. In fact, the Biden administration struck a deal to secure 8.5 million rapid at-home COVID-19 tests, which will provide results within minutes. The test, manufactured by Australian company Ellume, is the first Food and Drug Administration–approved antigen test that can be used at home without a prescription, and represents a significant development in the country’s broader pandemic response.[5] Rapid, widespread testing can create a sea of change for the pandemic and also foster sweeping changes across the industry.

 

Where ENGINE comes in…

In working with brands across the healthcare landscape, we are uniquely positioned to address evolving trends and future needs of all healthcare players. We help our clients futureproof their business with these tactics:

  • Assess the market landscape and future trends… to showcase whitespace opportunities.
  • Test new concepts… to bring innovative solutions to market.
  • Identify the right mix of partners… to optimize solutions.
  • Track the customer journey… to address pain points and showcase future opportunities.

 

Written by Amber McCullough, VP of Financial Services, Business Advisory at ENGINE Insights.

 

 

[1] “Telehealth to Experience Massive Growth with COVID-19 Pandemic” Frost & Sullivan. 2020.

[2] “Urgent Care Center Industry in 2020.” Healthcare Appraisers. September 15, 2020.

[3] “Home Diagnostics Market, Forecast, Trend, Analysis & Competition Tracking – Global Market Insights 2020 to 2030.” FactMR. January 2021.

[4] “Enter Amazon Pharmacy: the beginning of a great online pharmacy fight?” Pharmaceutical Technology. January 21, 2021.

[5] “Rapid COVID Tests Are Finally Coming Soon to U.S. Homes.” New York Magazine. February 1, 2021.

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