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Recovering from the pandemic will require restoring patient confidence

July 23, 2021
Telemedicine
Jim Durkin
By Jim Durkin

After more than a year of intensely focusing on producing medical equipment and treating patients for COVID-19, the healthcare industry is recovering and rebuilding. However, the pandemic has challenged the medical equipment industry and even created some medical device shortages. Now, as consumers are able to once again schedule non-emergency treatments and procedures, opportunities for medical equipment are growing amidst lingering supply chain and labor challenges. Patient reengagement will continue to play a vital role in this ongoing recovery and will need to be fostered to ensure a successful recovery.

While some people are fully returning to normal life, others are still cautious and visiting medical facilities in particular can set their nerves on edge. The Martec Group conducted a nationwide study to understand how consumers were feeling about the new normal of telehealth and returning to in-person care. What the survey uncovered was a reluctancy among certain consumer groups to engage with healthcare systems either in person or virtually.

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Healthcare consumer populations vary greatly
Healthcare providers are looking to regain consumer trust and optimize capacity levels. Understanding the best way to do this will benefit all facets of the healthcare industry. This starts with identifying consumer groups and their unique needs. The results of the Martec Group survey identified four types:

Apprehensive re-engagers – 22% of those surveyed, between ages 35-54, highly health literate, express the highest level of negative emotions (“discomfort” and “dread”) about reengaging with healthcare providers in a hospital or an office setting. This group also has reported the greatest negative change in their mental health. They are skeptical about the accuracy of remote visits versus in-person care. This group will need the most guidance. Emphasizing how far virtual medicine has come will be important, along with showing success stories. Communication that physicians can seamlessly order lab tests, which patients can have collected at a nearby lab service, also will be critical. For in-person visits, providers should reinforce that safety and cleaning protocols are always followed, and that incidence of exposure is very low.

Concerned re-engagers – 31% of those surveyed, the oldest segment at age 55 or more, living in both rural and suburban communities, are most uncomfortable with the technology required for telehealth and mourn the possibility of losing the personal connection they share with their trusted physicians. While this group has a high-risk profile, they have the most negative emotions toward remote visits. This segment needs reassurance about the ease of using virtual technology, instructional guidance that is customized for those with visual or audio issues, and examples of older consumers using remote telehealth services successfully. Preparing FAQ documents will help this group.

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