In the third year of this annual survey, Stericycle collected responses from over 1000 adults in the U.S. to questions about their communication preferences. Like other recent surveys, the results show that healthcare has changed since the beginning of the pandemic. Patients are finally getting back in for the care they need, technology is playing a bigger role, but most people still like some human-to-human contact.
The first big insight from the report is that most people are getting back to taking care of their health with 86% having had a primary care appointment in the last year. However about one-third said they had delayed care in the past year and patients under 34 were far more likely to have postponed care. Why were patients delaying care? The top two reasons were cost and lack of appointment availability.
The other noticeable difference between younger and older patients was loyalty. Eighty-two percent of patients under 34 were more likely to stay with a current primary care provider versus 95% of older adults. Younger adults were more likely to prefer digital services like online scheduling as well.
The issue of wait times for appointments came up again in the questions about non-traditional care venues. Nearly half the respondents had received care at a non-traditional care setting and 95% of those said they would go again. While many also said the care experience was disjointed from the rest of their medical care, issues like appointment scheduling made retail and other healthcare options appealing, especially for younger patients. Overall, 66% of patients said they aren’t willing to wait more than seven days for an appointment with their preferred provider before seeking care in an alternative setting.
Despite frustrations around scheduling and long waits for appointments, most people say they still use the phone for most scheduling. Of those who used other methods such as online or text, 70% said they were satisfied with the experience. Among those who didn’t use an alternative solution, 54% said they would use them if it made it easier to book and 48% said they would use it if there were more appointment slots available.
Telehealth may help alleviate issues. While 44% of patients say they prefer in person visits, 45% of patients said they had a telehealth appointment in the past year. And the satisfaction with telehealth is high, with 90% of users rating their experience as good or excellent.
The report also looked at booking at emergency rooms where reserving a spot online is growing substantially. And there were questions about access to care related to mental health, which has been a growing issue since the start of the pandemic. One in five respondents has sought treatment for a mental health issue. For those open to using telehealth, mental health appointments are the most preferred via telehealth.
The survey shows pretty clearly that appointment access and availability are huge issues for patients today. The takeaway for providers should be that making it easier to book appointments and offering flexibility and access through a combination of options like in-person, telehealth, urgent care, and ER is best.
One way to drive an increase in online appointment scheduling is to ensure that your scheduling tool is part of a larger digital strategy. A mobile platform that brings together all the patient-facing tools you offer is more likely to drive adoption than a single purpose app. Ideally, the mobile platform offers not just online scheduling for both in-person and virtual appointments, but the option to see wait times and distance to urgent care and emergency room locations with the ability to save a spot. It may also provide a virtual urgent care option or a triage system of some kind. The more features there are, the higher the adoption and repeat use of the mobile platform. You can learn more aboutdriving adoption with mobile in this report.