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Avtex surveyed 1000 people in an effort to better understand the average patient's viewpoint regarding the healthcare industry during the COVID-19 pandemic. The results of our survey revealed a number of interesting insights that healthcare providers should consider when planning strategies to reactivate patient relationships.

For readability and clarity, we've broken our findings down into a series of blog posts:

1. Why Patients are Avoiding Healthcare, and What They Need to Return
2. The Impact of Age on Patient Sentiment in Healthcare
3. Engage Patients with a Multi-Channel Healthcare Experience
4. Safety Practices, Messages and Communication Tactics for Healthcare Providers

In the previous blog on our Patient Sentiment Survey, we outlined a few factors influencing patients’ views on returning to healthcare. Location was uncovered as a key to patient sentiment, with emergency rooms being considered the riskiest site for patient encounters. Age of respondents also created a significant divide in the results of our study.

In this blog, we will highlight the different trends we uncovered for patients across generational groups and how age played a role in further influencing both patient sentiment and openness to new healthcare options.

Age Influences Wariness to Return and Creates Unique Patient Needs

Even in optimal circumstances, many patients are emotionally driven when considering their health care options. With the continuation of COVID-19, we see that fear, concern and uncertainty as persistent factors for patients.

  • Patients age 55+ (Baby Boomers), demonstrated a “cautious but determined’ attitude, and viewed healthcare settings as less risky when compared to their younger counterparts.
  • Patients age 35-44 (Generation X), were the most concerned group, worrying about their own health and the health of those around them. Gen X consumers are also the most likely to have children or older parents to care for, with concern and empathy for those dependents potentially driving their level of perceived risk.
  • Patients age 18-34 (Millennials and Generation Z), were similar to Gen X consumers, with concern about infecting others around them, specifically with regard to older family members.

Baby Boomer Patient Sentiment Trends and Needs

Throughout our survey, Baby Boomers – the group most likely to need to go to the doctor for various healthcare services – consistently demonstrated a “cautious but determined” attitude.

On average, Baby Boomers:

  • Viewed healthcare settings as less risky than younger counterparts
  • Demanded higher level of safety precautions
  • Welcomed telehealth, with 3 in 4 being open to it, though only 1 in 3 preferred it
  • Need additional reassurance that their providers understand their predicament and are working with them

What Baby Boomers Need From Providers

The survey results also identified some of the factors that Baby Boomers need or expect from providers in order to return to the health care setting. These needs include:

  • Be an authoritative source of health information (e.g. educate about possibilities and realities for a COVID-19 vaccine)
  • Implement preventative precautions, and tell these patients you are taking the following, which are most important to this group:
    • Requiring staff, patients and visitors to wear masks or face coverings
  • Disinfecting surfaces between patients
  • Taking temperatures
  • Reassure them they will be able to see their doctor in the safest and most appropriate way possible, as their preference is to “see my doctor(s) in person as much as possible”
  • Offer them options to make appointments easier (e.g. electronic check-in)

Generation X Patient Sentiment Trends and Needs

Gen X patients in our survey demonstrated significant healthcare needs, being the most likely to visit a provider once per month or more before COVID-19 began. Respondents age 35-44 were the group most concerned about COVID’s impact – on their own health, and the health of those around them – and they voiced a need for diverse options when it comes to telehealth.

On average, Gen X respondents:

  • Were the most concerned about COVID-19 risk and need reassurance
  • Fear impact of COVID-19 on their own health and health of those around them
  • Feel most strongly a vaccine will impact decision to return to healthcare settings
  • Gravitated towards video (vs. phone or other telehealth option)

What Gen X Patients Need From Providers

In order to return to the healthcare setting, Gen X respondents expect:

  • Accurate information about protecting themselves and their families
  • Aware of protective procedures in place in healthcare settings
  • Reassurance about efforts to minimize risk of COVID-19
  • Options for telehealth

Millennial and Gen Z Patient Sentiment Trends and Needs

Millennial and Gen Z patients were quite similar to Gen X patients in our survey, both in their sentiments and in their needs. However, research shows that these younger consumers age 18-34 are more likely to have higher standards when it came to technology usability, personalization and holistic care. The diversity of healthcare experience needs within this age segment warrants attention from providers, with a wide range of experiences being needed to reassure them.

On average, Millennial and Gen Z respondents:

  • Fear impact of COVID-19 on their own health and health of those around them
  • Are very open to telehealth, with 60% preferring it
  • Have higher telehealth standards and less patience than Gen X counterparts and are more concerned about “connection problems / inability to see or hear consistently”

What Millennial and Gen Z Patients Need From Providers

In order to return to the healthcare setting, Millennial and Gen Z respondents expect:

  • Accurate information about protecting themselves and their families
  • High-quality technological telehealth experience

Action Must Be Taken

Two main points rapidly emerged from our data, with age playing a key factor. First, despite age differences, all patients cared about being protected from COVID-19 and having a safe healthcare experience. Second, the unique sentiments of each group, and what needs different generations valued more than others, should indicate to providers the need to update and adapt the journey map. COVID-19 has expedited both the needs and opportunities for healthcare personalization, with different patient groups desiring different provider options. Our data suggested in order to ensure patients return patients, healthcare providers must offer a set of unique values and a multitude of engagement options so patients can essentially “shop and create” their own customized, personal healthcare experience.

Across all ages, 31% of respondents stated they would not visit a provider without first receiving communications describing safety procedures, and 72% said that they considered provider communications about safety to be either “extremely” or “very” important. Imagine running a business and almost 33% of customers said they would not visit without this requirement in place. You’d change overnight!