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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

COVID-19 transformed the way patients think about health care, as well as their approach to taking care of their health needs. In March, when the pandemic hit, health systems around the nation stopped performing elective procedures to ensure hospitals had enough capacity to treat COVID-19 patients. To protect staff and patients, outpatient clinics put cautionary procedures in place, delaying routine appointments for weeks or months. When providers began to open back up for more elective procedures, patients did not come rushing back as expected. Instead, providers quickly discovered that many patients had opted to continue socially distancing and delaying appointments.

To uncover “the why” behind this delayed return and provide healthcare providers with key insights to help them improve the healthcare experience for today’s COVID-19-impacted world, Avtex conducted a survey of more than 1,000 patients. We wanted to uncover the key factors influencing patient sentiment and desired provider practices, and to share that insight to help jumpstart the healthcare industry.

The survey, commissioned by Avtex, includes the following key parameters:

  • Sample modeled after the general U.S. population
  • n=1,048 respondents nationwide
  • Margin of error=3%
  • Data collected July 20th, 2020 - Aug 12th, 2020

Many Factors Impact Patient Sentiment About Returning to Regular Health Care

According to our surveyed patients, many are open to returning. In fact, 85% agreed with the statement: “Overall, I trust my healthcare providers to create and enforce safety measures that will keep me safe.” Of those that have not already been to a doctor’s office, 85% would be willing to go by the end of 2020. Yet, despite the large percentage of patients indicating they are ready to go back, over half of those surveyed said they would wait three to six months before returning. Patient comfort level with returning was found to be dependent on several factors. Most specifically, location, age and education.

Health Care Type and Location Influences Perceived Risk

Patients’ comfort level on returning depended on several factors, but none stood out more than the location of care delivery. Emergency rooms were overwhelmingly perceived as the riskiest location to receive health care, with 83% saying it had a risk level of Medium or higher, while visits to a clinic saw the lowest risk level with 56% saying they viewed clinics at a Medium or higher risk level.

The idea of visiting a doctor’s office or a hospital makes me extremely nervous. Given the sheer number of COVID-19 cases in the USA, those seem like some of the most likely environments to pick up the virus. I am very concerned about bringing the virus home to my parents who are both high risk due to their age.
Male Respondent, 25-34 years old

Age and Education Influence Perceived Risk

Aside from location, our survey also found that a patient’s age and education level also significantly influenced patient sentiment. Specifically, the following sentiments were impacted:

  • Level of concern around COVID-19
  • Likelihood to go back to a healthcare setting in the near future with/without a vaccine
  • Ranking of the riskiest healthcare settings
  • Openness to telehealth options
  • Requirements for safety procedures and practices needed from healthcare providers

For this survey, we have specifically defined generational groupings based on widely used terms: Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Z and Millennials. Overall, older patients (Baby Boomers, age 55+) were found to be visiting a clinician more often, and their answers reflect this, embodying a “cautious but determined” attitude and certain inevitability about going to see a healthcare provider.

Higher educated consumers who had become more concerned about COVID over time were also more likely to go to a provider and to use video-based telehealth. Within our survey, being more concerned did not seem to lead to disinterest or over-caution about new ways of managing health.