Forty-one percent of Americans say they lost confidence in their doctors during the pandemic, and 17% say they are considering switching doctors based on their current providers' Covid-19 response, according to a new poll from SymphonyRM.
Communication, communication, and more communication
Among those patients who said they lost confidence in their doctors amid the pandemic, a majority (53%) said it was because their provider rarely or never communicated with them about Covid-19. Meanwhile, 29% of respondents said it was because of their providers' slow adoption of virtual care, and 24% said it was because their providers did not take sufficient advantage of digital communication tools.
Conversely, the survey found that among the 59% of respondents who said their confidence in their providers increased amid the pandemic, 61% credited that boost to their providers' rapid switch to virtual care; 58% credited the frequency of their providers' Covid-19 communications; and 47% credited their providers' use of digital communication tools, such as text and email.
The survey also found that the pandemic's shift to virtual patient experiences increased patients' expectations regarding provider communication. According to the survey, half of surveyed patients said they had higher expectations for their providers now than before the pandemic, and most cite these expectations in digital appointment scheduling (58%), proactive communication (57%), and virtual appointments (54%). For instance, 63% of respondents who are thinking of switching to a new physician said they would consider the provider's use of digital communication tools.
Similarly, 48% of survey respondents said they would like their provider to communicate health care information more proactively in general—a need that many respondents indicated wasn't met so far during the pandemic. For instance, according to the survey, only 49% of respondents said they received general information about Covid-19 from their doctor, and of those, just 55% said they received several updates about Covid-19 or the vaccines. And only 35% of all respondents received any communication about the Covid-19 vaccines at all, the survey found.
As a point of comparison, the survey found that respondents believed retail brands reach out more frequently and effectively with consumer engagement messages than do health care providers. For example, 40% of respondents said Amazon met their "gold standard" in terms of communication, and another 28% said the same about Netflix. But 66% of surveyed adults said they would rather receive relevant health care information from their doctors than proactive information about an upcoming offer from their favorite retail brand.
"[A]lthough many health systems and doctors rose to the challenge of connecting patients with the information they needed about their health and the virus," Michael Linnert, CEO of SymphonyRM, said, the survey indicates that "many Americans were left behind and did not receive the same level of communication and engagement."
He added, "Doctors and health systems can learn strategies from consumer-facing brands for engaging consumers and driving action. Providers just starting out on their patient engagement journey, or even those that are further along, can look at brands like Amazon to identify tactics to which today's health care consumers will respond." (Vaidya, MedCity News, 8/17)