Healthcare Experience Blog

Technology bridges the generation gap

Healthcare going online may not seem like an earth-shattering concept to you–unless you’re in the midst of adapting to the requirements of Meaningful Use in your hospital, system, or practice.

Patients interacting with their healthcare is, however, a relatively new phenomenon but it’s rapidly taking hold.

In our 2014 “What’s Reasonable?” study, we, not surprisingly, found that the younger generations, X (ages 21-33) and Y (ages 34-48) are the ones that are most likely to prefer online access to healthcare information and providers. They’re the ones most likely to want to pay their medical bills, look at their lab results and make a future routine appointment online, versus more conventional means.

More of the consumers in older segments (ages 49 and up) did tend to prefer traditional rather than online methods of communication with a doctor’s office, at least for certain functions including reviewing/paying their medical bill and making a future appointment.

While Generations X and Y are more strident in wanting healthcare to move online, Baby Boomers are actually the biggest consumers of healthcare services in the U.S. right now. And keep this in mind: 84% of our Baby Boomer respondents, more than in any other age cohort, are already using the Internet to find out information about a medical condition or drug.

How long will it be before they also start putting pressure on healthcare providers to “get online” and make it easy to set appointments, refill a prescription, get medical advice, and view their lab results? Meaningful Use can’t get here fast enough for lots of Baby Boomers who already use smartphones.

The use of technology is certainly not limited to just Generations X and Y. Baby Boomers’ huge presence in healthcare makes them a significant influencer in healthcare’s future–and the move for 24-7 online access and information.

To learn more about our 2014 “What’s Reasonable?” study and download a full deck of the results, click here.

McKinsey says “Digitize Healthcare Access”

Earlier this month, McKinsey & Company published a study that resonates with much of what we found in our 2014 “What’s Reasonable” Study among American consumers.

They surveyed consumers in the UK, Germany, and Singapore.  They said the belief by many healthcare executives that consumers don’t want to use digital services to meet their healthcare needs is flawed.  They suggest that when executives point to the low level of usage of digital healthcare services, it’s because “existing services don’t meet their needs or because they are of poor quality” (meaning, a bad user experience, I believe).

Their study shows that more than 75% of the consumers in these countries expect to use digital services for healthcare related activities. McKinsey also says in their report that “across the globe, most people want the same thing:  assistance with routine tasks and navigating the often-complex healthcare system.”

The one service patients most often cite as most needed is an easy and efficient means of “finding and scheduling physician appointments.”  They also found people want basic services including help finding the right specialist and refilling prescriptions digitally.  Their report adds “What most of these services have in common is that they do NOT require massive IT investments to get started.”

A final point to bear in mind:  The authors of the McKinsey study suggest that a health system’s success in implementing a digital strategy “depends very much on first understanding patients’ digital preferences in both channel and service.”

I recommend you take a look at their study, and our recent study, and then contact us to help you assess the needs and priorities of consumers in your marketplace.  That way, you can make investments that will pay off in terms of finding new patients for your physicians, increasing the level of loyalty among your patient base, and meeting your Meaningful Use requirements.

It all starts with…an email

If you’ve read any of my past blogs, or know anything about my company, you know that we are major proponents of online surveying. But online surveying in healthcare often comes with a huge obstacle: capturing patients’ email addresses!

Of course, some healthcare organizations routinely ask patients for their email address, but others do not, or don’t do it consistently, across various touch points.

This boggles my mind. What other major industry misses such an opportunity to open an electronic channel of communication with its customers?

According to the Pew Research Center, some 85% of Americans use the Internet*, and I would guess, most of these individuals have at least one (if not several) email addresses.

Of course the large freight train called “Meaningful Use” is lumbering down the track. So this will be an incentive for greater electronic communication between providers and patients, as providers must show that consumers are using portals to access their medical information, communicate with their doctors, and so forth.

Meanwhile, we encourage all healthcare organizations, including physician practices, to implement processes that will routinely allow patients/consumers to “opt in” and provide their email address.

In our recent “What’s Reasonable?” study, we found that 92% of our respondents had been to see a doctor in the last year, but only 23% of them said they received a patient satisfaction survey. This could be because mail surveying is expensive for a provider to do on a routine basis, considering the cost of the paper, printing, postage, data entry, and reporting. Organizations may not want that kind of expense to survey all their patients, even though the feedback is crucial to improving quality of care.

Online surveying is more convenient for both the organization AND the patients.  Based on our experience, online surveying offers a response rate similar to that of mail. Would you be more likely to take an experience survey if it were emailed to you rather than one that is snail mailed? Eight in ten (79%) of our study respondents said they would prefer to take an experience survey online rather than by phone or mail.

There are many benefits of online surveying, as evidenced in our white paper on this topic. Any organization, big or small, healthcare or non-healthcare, can benefit from the convenience and affordability of online surveying. And our surveys deploy to smart phones and tablets, as well as to desktop and laptop computers, so that consumers on the move can still provide valuable feedback.

To learn more about how patients feel about online surveying and using the Internet for their healthcare, download the results of our 2014 “What’s Reasonable?” study.

Will money make doctors talk?

We all know that email has changed the way we communicate on a day-to-day basis. I’m sure you use it to keep up with friends, family members, and professional contacts…like I do. However, do you use email to correspond with your doctor?

In our recent 2014 “What’s Reasonable?” study, we found that nearly everyone that’s already online wants email access to their doctor.  In fact, 93% of our respondents told us that they would choose a doctor that uses email over one that does not, all other factors being equal. And 25% of those people would pay $25 per episode to communicate with their doctor via email.

Emailing is certainly convenient for the patient, because it allows us the opportunity to send along a question or comment when it’s convenient for us.

But what about for the provider–the doctor or nurse, at the receiving end of that email?

Doctors and other providers have been slow to embrace this idea for a number of reasons, some of them very sound. It creates an additional workflow for the doctor, without any additional reimbursement (in most cases). There are issues related to privacy and HIPAA. There could be issues related to quality of care, based on miscommunication. And a constant stream of incoming emails raises the specter of putting a doctor “on call” basically well-beyond their already long hours.

Nevertheless, One Medical Group has made a business out of allowing patients online access to doctors, as part of a new model of primary care. For $199 a year, you get:

  • Email communication with your doctor
  • Preferred access for same-day appointments
  • Digital access to your medical records
  • Digital access to your lab and test results
  • Digital Rx refills
  • Digital communication for treatment (common issues)


Physicians will be involved with email to a much greater degree than ever before as Meaningful Use takes hold. Patients will then be able to contact doctors through a provider’s patient portal. Reimbursement of the dollars spent to build the portal and be “more wired” are dependent on at least some nominal degree of online interaction. But will doctors go further and use email to extend their services? And will payers, employers, and maybe consumers pay them to do so? The demand for email with a doctor is apparent. How this demand will be met is not yet clear.

To view the full recording of the 2014 “What’s Reasonable?” webinar, click here. To download a PDF of the results slide deck, click here.

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