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October 13th, 2021

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Annual Consumer Survey Reveals Five-Year Shift in Preference Towards Digitally-Enabled Patient Access

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Fifth Annual Report from Kyruus Shows Consumer Demand for Rich Insights and Convenient Scheduling When Comparing Healthcare Providers and Services

BOSTON – October 13, 2021 – Kyruus today announced findings from its fifth annual survey of 1,000 healthcare consumers examining their preferences for finding and scheduling care. The results, published in the 2021 Patient Access Journey Report, show that consumers increasingly utilize, and prefer, digital access channels – a consistent trend across the five years Kyruus has produced the report. The findings also illuminate the multitude of factors consumers consider when looking for a new provider or service, underscoring the need for healthcare delivery organizations and health plans to surface robust information online and expand online scheduling options.

When it comes to how consumers specifically research and evaluate their care options, for the fifth year in a row, the digital channel dominated with nearly 60% of all respondents researching providers online and 58% of applicable respondents researching other healthcare services or care sites (e.g., vaccines, testing, imaging, urgent care) online. Healthcare delivery organization websites (60% of online researchers) and general internet searches (53%) remain the top digital resources for provider research, but health plan websites are close behind (52%) and their role is growing, up more than 10 percentage points from 2020. The survey also showed the continued importance of online scheduling to today’s healthcare consumers, with preference for it increasing 15 percentage points from the 2017 survey.

Additional notable findings include: 

  • Online research plays a substantial role in the search for services and care sites as well as providers: in response to a new survey topic focused on how they find services and care sites, 58% of consumers who sought these said they researched online; 60% conducted general searches, 58% visited healthcare delivery organization websites, and 41% consulted health plan websites. 

  • Cost, convenience, and clinical expertise are pivotal factors in provider selection: over the past five years, consumers have consistently prioritized factors related to cost, convenience, and clinical expertise when choosing new providers. This year, insurance acceptance (94% classifying extremely/very important), clinical expertise (87%), hospital or health system reputation (84%), and appointment availability (83%) again landed in the top four.

  • More than half of insured consumers evaluate expected out-of-pocket costs: the 2021 survey posed new questions to explore cost factors in more detail, finding that, among those with insurance, 94% consider cost-related insights when choosing a provider or service; three-quarters seek confirmation that the provider/service is in-network and over half seek estimated out-of-pocket costs based on their specific plan, deductible, etc.

  • Consumer preference for online scheduling has steadily increased over the past five years: 40% of consumers overall prefer to book appointments online – an increase of 15 percentage points from the 2017 survey – and, while phone is still the top booking method overall, it has declined 12 percentage points since 2017.

  • Consumers are still delaying routine care; virtual and convenient care play a key role for acute needs: 45% of respondents report being hesitant to seek in-person care to some degree as the pandemic continues and, when asked about routine care during the remainder of 2021, one-quarter said they plan to delay it and another 16% are unsure. For acute needs, half of survey respondents said their preferred way to obtain care is via an urgent care clinic, retail clinic, or virtual visit.
“Five years of survey data has shown that the patient access journey increasingly spans multiple channels, with people relying heavily on both healthcare delivery organizations and health plans to navigate their care decisions,” said Dr. Graham Gardner, CEO of Kyruus. “The findings highlight not only the need for these organizations to expand their own digital offerings, but also to collaborate to ensure patients encounter accurate and consistent information across these prominent access channels.”

Kyruus conducted the survey of 1,000 consumers in partnership with Wakefield Research in August 2021. All respondents searched for a healthcare provider in the prior two years and about 80% searched within the prior 12 months. 

To access more of the findings, download the 2021 Patient Access Journey Report here.