More patients getting care outside of doctor’s office

Retail locations, virtual visits are most popular alternatives, survey finds

The number of Americans getting care in places other than a primary care doctor’s office continues to grow, and an overwhelming majority of those say they intend to continue doing so.

Those are among the results to emerge from the latest patient engagement survey sponsored by Stericycle Communication Solutions. The 2022 survey of 1,004 adults highlights trends related to non-traditional care venues, generational differences in patient engagement, and patients’ preferences when it comes to communicating with their health care providers.

Close to half—45%--of survey respondents said they’ve gotten care in a non-traditional setting and 81% of those said they had done so in the last year. In addition, 95% said they intend to get care in a non-traditional setting in the future. At the same time, 41% of respondents said getting care outside of a doctor’s office felt disjointed from the rest of their medical care, a sign of persisting fragmentation of the health care system.

The most frequently used non-traditional care setting was a retail location (51%), followed by virtual care (34%), apps (11%), and subscription/membership-based care (5%). The most common reasons cited for using a non-traditional venue was the ability to get care quickly (50%), ease of access (48%), and location convenience (46%).

The survey found significant age-related differences in respondents’ willingness to seek care in non-traditional venues. A majority—56%—of those age 18 to 34 said they have done so, compared to 33% of those 55 and older. Moreover, 63% of respondents in the younger cohort think the care they get in a retail setting is equal to that of a dedicate health care provider, compared to 30% in the older cohort.

Age differences were also apparent in decisions to delay seeking care. While 50% of those in the 18 to 34 age range have delayed care in the last year, only 16% of those 55 and older say they have done so. Overall, 31% said they have put off care in the past year. The top reason cited for doing so was cost (32%), followed by lack of appointment availability (30%) and feeling unsafe (24%).

More than 90% of respondents said their most recent primary care visit was in-person. At the same time, however, 45% of consumers surveyed had used telehealth at least once in the previous year, and 90% rated their telehealth experience as good or excellent. The main reasons for preferring telehealth over in-person visits were convenience (58%), safety (43%), and access to a better provider (24%).

“As the world has opened back up [following the COVID-19 pandemic] so has in-person care, pointing to the need for medical providers to offer high levels of in-office are as well as hybrid care solutions,” the survey states.

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