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COVID changed patient expectations for their doctors


Patients want more relevant and timely information

A survey by SymphonyRM, a health care software company, revealed that COVID-19 has changed how Americans view their doctors and also impacted their expectations for their health care providers.

Key findings:

  • 50% of respondents have higher expectations for their doctors since COVID-19
  • 40% of respondents do not receive communication from their doctor between visits
  • 23% say their opinion of their doctor has changed since COVID-19
  • Nearly 20% of respondents are considering changing their doctor based on how they handled COVID-19

“The COVID-19 pandemic presented challenges across the healthcare spectrum, from care delivery to patient communication,” said Michael Linnert, CEO of SymphonyRM, in a statement. “Our research found that, although many health systems and doctors rose to the challenge of connecting patients with the information they needed about their health and the virus, many Americans were left behind and did not receive the same level of communication and engagement.”

The results indicate that people want doctors to send more consistent and actionable information about their health, such as preventive screenings and proactive health tips.

For example, the survey shows that only 50% of patients receive information about chronic conditions and preventive screenings. And while 45% of respondents report receiving general health information, such as healthy eating or exercise tips from their doctors, only 21% report that their doctors send them information related to their chronic condition, and just 29% report receiving information about scheduling options for preventive screenings, such as colonoscopies or mammograms.

The patient demand for information from their doctors is relatively high. Consider the following findings:

  • 41% would like to receive information about and scheduling options for preventive screenings
  • 39% would like to receive information about appointment availability
  • 37% would like to receive information related to their chronic condition(s)
  • 37% would like to receive information and updates about the COVID-19 vaccine

Patient expectations are also evolving, with 41% of respondents having less confidence in their doctors since COVID-19. For the 59% of respondents who have more confidence in their doctors, it was the doctors’ quick transition to virtual care (61%), the frequency with which they communicated about COVID-19 (58%), and their use of digital communication tools (47%) that instilled that confidence.

For the 41% of patients who lost the confidence of their doctors, it was their lack of communication about COVID-19 (53%), their slow adoption of virtual care (29%), and their under-utilization of digital communication tools (24%) that impacted their reputation.

Moving forward, people are looking for the ability to schedule appointments digitally (58%), more proactive communication about relevant health information (57%), virtual/telehealth appointments (54%), and remote patient monitoring (37%).

In addition to changing expectations, health outcomes can be impacted by how and when doctors communicate to their patients. Nearly 3 out of 4 respondents would be likely to schedule preventive care appointments (e.g., annual physical, mammogram, colonoscopy) if they received electronic (text/email) reminders from their doctor’s office.

“Doctors and health systems can learn from consumer-facing brands when it comes to engagement and driving action,” said Linnert. “For example, our research reveals that 40% of Americans consider Amazon the gold standard based on how the brand communicates with them. Those 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 consumers – i.e., patients – respond.”

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Jennifer N. Lee, MD, FAAFP
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health