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Impact of COVID-19 : Healthcare consumer shift towards online solutions

Telemedicine

Hygiene, safety concerns, social distancing and a fear-led mindset have sparked growth in consumers preferring online consultations over in-person interactions, rise in telemedicine, home based care across consultations, diagnostics, and in-patient care across the care continuum, a recent survey indicates.

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The outbreak of COVID-19 has led to a change in healthcare consumer preferences and priorities. The focus is now shifted towards the use of technology and contact-less health care. Home health care has taken prominence as consumer receptiveness towards out-of-hospital, at-home services across the care continuum— consultation, diagnostics, and in-patient care, has shot up, a Deloitte survey titled, “Changing consumer preferences towards health care services: The impact of COVID-19” indicated.

Commenting on the findings of the survey, Anupama Joshi, Partner, Deloitte India, said, “The report lists the opportunities and challenges for the health care sector in managing the shift in consumer preferences. The report aims to understand change in consumer behaviour and expectation and propose few interventions for health care providers to increase engagement with consumers and prepare their organisations for the post-pandemic world. We believe this will help organisations in the health care ecosystem to create better business strategies, collaborate with start-ups, and continue to thrive post COVID-19 by exploring new settings and delivery channels across the continuum of care.”

The user base for telemedicine is seen to have more than doubled during the lockdown from 21 to 44 percent respondents. The demand for telemedicine services is expected to continue, driven by an increase in consumer preference for an efficient consultation setting that eliminates commute and waiting time.

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Also read: Fortis Hospital, Mulund launches Mumbai’s 1st dedicated ‘post covid-19 OPD’

As per Deloitte the findings are based on a survey conducted with consumers across geographies, employment status, gender, and age groups with a focus on evolving consumer sentiments, behaviour, and expectations from health care providers on care settings and safety protocols.

The survey also indicates an increase in partnerships and arrangements between traditional and non-traditional players including technology start-ups and home health care firms), as the ecosystem evolves to adapt and cater to changing consumer needs and behaviour.

Reasonably priced subscription models for home-based services are preferred to a significant proportion of consumers. The survey also indicates that going forward, health management will become a lot more integrated, with players offering different services coming together and offering the consumers the care they need by enabling technology-based solutions. Several of these services will either move to a virtual setting or to consumers’ homes, with technology platforms pulling them together.

Major trends seen in consumer behaviour

  • Over 90 percent respondents expressed concerns over visiting hospitals. Only 28 percent respondents intend to delay elective procedures by more than six months or till a COVID-19 vaccine is available.
  • About 70–80 percent of the sample responded positively towards at-home-care settings across consultations, diagnostics, day-care services, and in-patient care.
  • From general medicine to physiotherapy, there exists significant interest in telemedicine across specialties. The user base for telemedicine is seen to have more than doubled during the lockdown from 21 to 44 percent.
  • Around 73 percent respondents, who had never tried telemedicine before, expressed an inclination towards using telemedicine at present.
  • An overwhelming majority of 74 percent respondents preferred home collection of samples over visiting a hospital or a lab.
  • 59 percent respondents showed a higher preference for visiting reputed hospital chains over nursing homes, as they believe hospital chain facilities to have better adherence to safety norms.
  • A large number of respondents expressed willingness to purchase a discounted subscription to a variety of home-care services
  • Adoption of home health care services are likely to increase as they become an integral part of the services offered by hospitals and independent start-ups.

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