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Guest Editorial: Healthcare Needs Increasing but Hesitancy Persists | NEWS-Line for Nurses

Guest Editorial: Healthcare Needs Increasing but Hesitancy Persists


Wearing masks, washing hands regularly, using hand sanitizers and staying home more helped to control the spread of Covid. These measures also kept people from spreading and contracting other illnesses. While people are ready to get back to normal and start dining out, traveling, going to sporting events, and having active lives again, they still may not be ready to visit a doctor even if they do catch a cold while out and about.

As restrictions are lifted and the threat of Covid wanes, the medical community will need to work hard to encourage patients to reengage and seek care. After skipping screenings and check-ups in 2020, many people face diagnoses that will be more advanced than if they had been able to confidently seek care last year.

Simply waiting for patients to return on their own may lead to greater negative outcomes.

In a nationwide study conducted by The Martec Group, many consumers reported feeling ‘insecure’ about reengaging with U.S. healthcare systems. Concerns identified include misgivings about both in-person and telehealth care. Findings also draw a roadmap for healthcare providers looking to regain consumer trust and help them feel comfortable seeking in-person care again.

Martec Group’s study found that the largest percentage of both groups – 46% of telehealth users and 53% of those who have not used telehealth yet – are neutral about future engagement. They’re intrigued, but they need to be won over still. The apparent tradeoffs with remote versus in-person healthcare have yet to move the needle toward positive sentiment. Forty percent of respondents indicate missing the structure of in-person visits with physicians, while the lure of no wait times and easily getting appointments is welcome.

Understanding Healthcare Consumers

In the end, to succeed in getting more patients to return and continue utilizing healthcare services, providers need to customize their outreach to individual consumer segments. They also need to meet patients at their preferred form of reengagement. To better understand healthcare consumers, the study identified four unique consumer segments with significantly varying viewpoints on reengaging healthcare systems.

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.

Remote Re-engagers – 30% of those surveyed, the youngest group at ages 18-34, mostly living in urban and suburban areas, are most resistant to in-person doctor visits. They like the convenience and ease of remote visits but have some concerns about data security. Healthcare organizations and providers should underscore their system updates regarding secure data and privacy and urge this group to participate in digital wellness platforms and home-based testing. Highlighting how advanced healthcare has become will boost their overall engagement levels.

Confident Re-engagers – 17% of those surveyed, ages 35-54, mostly urban dwellers, have the lowest level of concern about in-person and remote visits and the highest level of positive emotions. This segment will be the least challenging to reengage and is most likely to see the benefits for both in-person and telehealth services.

Key Findings for Healthcare Providers

Whether they opt for in-person or remote care, providers should create more touchpoints to address all healthcare consumer segments’ concerns about healthcare experiences:

• Use more opportunities on websites, chatbots, social media, wellness blogs and customer reviews to discuss successful stories of people using telehealth services and demonstrate how clean and safe facilities are for in-person visits

• Address all safety concerns using these platforms to help reduce fears regarding exposure

• Show video demonstrations of what a remote visit looks like and provide examples of what a patient may prepare ahead of time to make a virtual visit more productive and rewarding
Additionally, for remote healthcare, providers should:

• Review and support the customer journey

• Identify use cases for when virtual visits can provide a strong option over in-person visits

• Address consumers’ concerns about the privacy and security of their personal information

Regaining confidence and returning to normal care routines will be easy for some people. Others will need the support and guidance of their providers to help them reengage and overcome lingering hesitancies. Understanding the unique needs of each type of patient and where they fall on the reengagement spectrum will be critical for healthcare providers.

About the Author:

Jim Durkin is a Founding Partner of The Martec Group and has more 35 years of global market research and consulting experience. His market analyses have covered the entire spectrum, including new product concept analyses, global market opportunity assessments, pricing analysis, market segmentation, product positioning and message testing and post launch ATU and satisfaction/loyalty tracking. Mr. Durkin has been involved in the development of Martec’s Emotion Intelligence practice and has served a variety of Fortune 1000 companies and private equity firms in a range of markets including healthcare, food and beverage, building construction and transportation/logistics during his tenure.

Mr. Durkin is an alumnus of the Young President's Organization (YPO) and serves on the advisory boards of businesses involved in wholesale distribution and private equity investing. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering from Purdue University.

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