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By: Genny Gordon on June 23rd, 2021

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4 Fundamental Ways the Pandemic Has Changed Patient Access Forever

Digital | Clients | Patient Experience | Patient Access | Partners | Online Scheduling | COVID-19

This was originally published on Greystone.Net's blog, GreyMatters, on May 19.

The past four years, Kyruus has conducted a survey of 1,000 healthcare consumers to understand how they search for, select, and schedule appointments with healthcare providers. While the most recent report revealed early signs that the COVID-19 pandemic was changing consumer preferences for accessing care, a year into the pandemic we wanted to poll consumers again to gain a deeper understanding of its impact on their decision making.

In March 2021, we surveyed 1,000 people about everything from reasons for delaying care and COVID-19 vaccine access to preferences for obtaining future care. The results revealed that consumers’ expectations have changed for good and that their experiences with care during the pandemic have led to a lasting mindset shift. As care demand rebounds, here are four changes healthcare organizations need to keep in mind:

1. Safety concerns will persist

Many delayed care during the pandemic because of safety concerns, and looking at the rest of 2021, 42% of respondents said they plan to continue delaying in-person care or are unsure. Even as demand returns, organizations will need to keep proactively communicating with patients about pandemic-related updates (e.g., COVID-19 safety protocols) and educating them on their options to reduce fear and foster trust.

2. Consumer demand for virtual care is here to stay

Despite being a necessity over the last few months, our results show that patients have eagerly accepted virtual care and it’s here to stay. While the majority of consumers still prefer in-person care, there is significant continued demand for virtual visits, particularly for routine and mental healthcare. To capitalize on this interest and attract new patients, healthcare organizations should focus on building long-term hybrid care delivery models that offer consumers both in-person and virtual options where appropriate.

3. Care continues to move beyond the provider office

The pandemic has shown consumers that they don’t always need to go into a provider office or hospital to receive care. In fact, when asked about their preferred setting for receiving routine care, nearly one-third of respondents prefer obtaining virtual care or visiting an urgent care or retail clinic. Also, 37% said that speed of access would have the biggest impact on where they sought care post-pandemic, second only to insurance coverage (48%), indicating an opportunity for organizations to win loyalty by expanding access to convenient care.

4. Online scheduling is a key part of the post-pandemic future

Kyruus’ most recent consumer research found 43% prefer to schedule their appointments online. As the demand for digital care navigation grows, only accelerated by the pandemic, the bar for patient experience continues to rise. Healthcare organizations wishing to stand out need to invest in their online scheduling programs, enabling consumers to self-schedule a growing variety of services and appointment types.

Want additional insight into the pandemic’s impact on patient preferences? Read our Patient Access Post-Pandemic Report.