NRC Health Annual Consumer Trends Report Shows Declining Care Deferment, Rising Mental Health Challenges and Gaps in Telehealth

LINCOLN, Neb., Jan. 19, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- NRC Health, the leading provider of in-depth customer intelligence in healthcare, today released its 2022 Healthcare Consumer Trends Report. The fourth annual report captures evolving consumer sentiments and provides insight into how healthcare organizations can navigate the next year successfully amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“The global pandemic and its variants have led hospitals and health systems to quickly learn that transformational change is necessary in order to meet demand and move the industry forward,” said Helen Hrdy, Chief Growth Officer, NRC Health. “And while many healthcare organizations have shown they can be flexible despite the catastrophic loss, the pandemic has shined a light on how necessary consumer-driven improvements and a better patient experience are for continued survival and growth.”

Consumers are returning in record numbers, but preventative care is still rebounding
While consumers deferring healthcare services due to the pandemic is one of the most significant disruptions in healthcare delivery in modern history, NRC Health data shows that from 2020 to 2021, the rate at which consumers resumed services rose by 132% across all major service lines.

Preventative care however was particularly affected by pandemic-induced deferment and continues to see slow returns, especially in conditions where the COVID-19 virus can be most acute, like blood pressure tests, routine physical exams and BMI (Body Mass Index) screenings.

Left untreated, many conditions are likely to deteriorate, leading to serious adverse outcomes that health systems may not be able to treat. They should be mindful that some consumers who re-emerge could be sicker and costlier in 2022.

Healthcare systems must offer resources to support rising mental health challenges
A national study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed the percentage of adults with recent symptoms of a depressive disorder increased from more than 24% in August 2020 to 30% in December. This increased frequency indicates that mental health services and resources, including telehealth behavioral services, are critical, particularly among populations disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

Hospitals and health systems have a responsibility to address the urgency around mental health, from adopting mitigation strategies that could incorporate ways to promote mental wellbeing and target determinants of poor mental health to interventions to treat those with a mental disorder. Taking no action to address the burden of major depressive and anxiety disorders should not be an option.

Telehealth growth is consistent, but not a slam dunk in every practice area
While in years past, telehealth struggled with reimbursement and logistics, its widespread adoption during the pandemic has grabbed and is holding consumer interest now.

From telehealth’s ease of use, the amount of time spent with providers, courtesy, the respect received, and attentiveness patients feel, telehealth has emerged a winner, and not just with family practice, internal medicine, and nurse practitioners. Telehealth usage has increased among several specialty providers, including thoracic/cardiothoracic vascular surgeons (202%), social workers (195%) and counselors (183%), but it’s not a shoo in for all practice areas, with NRC Health data showing telehealth usage down in ophthalmology (-200%), dermatology (-142%) and orthopedic surgery (-131%).

While telehealth usage has more than doubled since 2020, healthcare systems need to cultivate an effective and meaningful telehealth practice and consider digital health innovations beyond video conferencing—to sensors, augmented intelligence, wearables, and more to improve health outcomes, care experience and work-life balance and reduce costs.

Healthcare recall on the rise, giving hospitals opportunity to personalize communications
NRC Health data shows that marketing recall over the last year has increased from the lowest point of 59% in 2020 to 64% in 2021. And with more consumers turning to hospital websites for helpful health information and more, digital healthcare efforts are on the rise, arming healthcare systems with an abundance of data that can be used to personalize communications and deliver connected tools and data for consumers. Ultimately, the ability to be proactive in communications allows for preventing disease rather than treating it.

To build trust, hospitals must demonstrate an understanding of patients’ unique needs
Personalized experiences are slowly becoming the norm as consumers engage and share information with hospitals and practitioners, who then use this information to personalize experiences further. With personalization at the center of emerging healthcare, consumers will seek new levels of health and wellness—but only if healthcare organizations get it right.

The key to enhancing a patient’s journey is understanding preferences in advance. After all, almost 99% of life happens for patients beyond the hospital care setting. When healthcare organizations begin to understand each person’s expectations in advance of their interaction or episode of care, they can personalize their interactions at the right moments and exceed those expectations.

“When organizations lead with empathy and Human Understanding and can engage patients to co-design the process to change healthcare, they will be more than ready to meet any future challenges,” said Hrdy.

The NRC Healthcare Consumer Trends Report is based on the single most extensive database of healthcare consumers, with more than two million consumer voices from 310,000 American households sourced from more than 300 markets across all 50 states. The report is available for download here.

About NRC Health
For more than 40 years, NRC Health has been committed to achieving Human Understanding and bringing healthcare organizations closer to their customers than ever before by illuminating and improving the key moments that define an experience and build trust. Guided by their uniquely empathic heritage, proprietary methods, skilled associates, and holistic approach, NRC Health helps its customers design experiences that exceed expectations, inspire loyalty, and improve well-being among patients, residents, physicians, nurses, and staff.

For more information, email info@nrchealth.com, or visit www.nrchealth.com.

Press Contact:
Jennifer Lyle
Barokas, a FINN Partners Company
nrchealth@finnpartners.com 

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Source: National Research Corporation (NRC)

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