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CVS Health study: Amid the pandemic, consumers want technology-enabled health care


Consumers need more accessible, personalized and technology-driven health care than ever before and are seeking simplicity in the way they engage in their own health, according to CVS Health's 2020 Path to Better Health Study.

The study, which asked consumers and providers their thoughts on the state of health care and how they are navigating this evolving landscape amid the pandemic, found that the use of technology and data analytics in health care is reaching new heights.

The pandemic is accelerating the adoption of digitally based solutions, and consumers are eagerly embracing technology, especially when it comes to communicating with their providers, according to the study. 

Forty-eight percent said they would be more likely to communicate with healthcare professionals if they were able to do so through digital messaging (up from 41% in 2019), via telehealth (32%, up from 19% in 2019) and through such virtual office visits as Skype or FaceTime (29%, up from 20% in 2019). Additionally, 40% of consumers said they would be very likely to receive care for mental and behavioral health virtually.

"The pandemic has forced countless Americans to rethink their approach to health and explore different avenues of care," said Larry Merlo, CEO of CVS Health. "Whether in the community, in the home or in the palm of their hand, people are discovering new ways to conveniently and affordably address their health care needs, including mental and behavioral health. We expect these changes will transform the way care is delivered moving forward."

The need to manage chronic conditions and mental health concerns is clearly top of mind for many consumers. A significant number of people indicated that members of their households are struggling with high blood pressure (41%), obesity (35%), mental illness (28%) and diabetes (17%).

Addressing mental health concerns is also of growing importance, especially among those age 18 to 34 years old and 35 to 50 years old, where social isolation is a top concern. For example, 44% of those age 18 to 34 years old and 45% of those aged 35 to 50 years old indicated that they no longer have a desire to be social, while only 29% of those age 51 to 64 years old said the same. This resembles the 2019 findings, in which 48% of those age 18 to 34 years old and 45% of those 35 to 50 years old reported they did not have a desire to be social, versus 35% of people aged 51 to 64 years old .

The desire for accessibility is pushing people to explore new avenues of care. While a majority (62%) of consumers still go to their primary care physician to treat a minor illness or injury, nearly one-third (31%) are likely to visit a non-emergency walk-in clinic. This is up from 2019, in which 59% of consumers reported going to their PCP for a minor illness or injury, while 28% said they would visit a nonemergency walk-in clinic. Digital solutions such as telemedicine also are growing in popularity with both patients and providers.

Most consumers (92%) said it is very or somewhat important that health care be convenient, a factor that has only become more critical as a result of COVID-19.

About one-third (35%) of people said healthcare costs are an obstacle to staying healthy, and close to half (49%) have not visited a doctor when they had a minor illness or injury due to cost. Despite cost emerging as a top barrier to care, it is not often a topic of discussion between patients and healthcare providers. Two-thirds of patients (66%) said their PCP and other healthcare providers had not asked about the "affordability" of health care and/or discussed resources to assist with these costs, up slightly from 64% in the 2019 Path to Better Health Study.

Other highlights from the study include:

  • Healthcare providers are increasingly turning to digital tools and technologies to care for and connect with their patients. Telemedicine is of particular interest, with 40% of providers saying it is very valuable for communicating with patients, up from 22% in the 2019 study. The future outlook for incorporating predictive analytics or artificial intelligence into provider practices also looks strong, with more than one-third (39%) indicating they already have or are very or somewhat likely to integrate these technologies into their practices within the next several years.
  • Providers are expressing the need for additional support for important community resources, but access is improving. For example, many providers said they have fair or poor access to substance abuse counselors (56%) and mental health counselors (50%), down from 63% and 55% in our 2019 study, respectively.
  • Many providers are experiencing burnout symptoms. Three-fourths (75%) of all providers said they feel burned out very frequently, frequently or sometimes. About one-quarter (27%) said the main cause of burnout is time spent documenting care/electronic record systems, followed by administrative/management requirements/paperwork (25%).

Read the full study.


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