Top 2022 Health Predictions on Shifting Consumer Behavior

The NRC Health 2022 Healthcare Consumer Trends Report, the leading provider of in-depth customer  intelligence in healthcare, highlights consumers’ evolving preferences and behaviors related to crucial healthcare trends and offers insight into how provider organizations can recapture patient volumes in  2022. 

“Healthcare leaders must move the industry forward by building consumer trust and ensuring that more  Human Understanding is part of every care experience,” says Helen Hrdy, Chief Growth Officer at NRC  Health. “It is imperative that healthcare systems and hospitals make significant progress in treating the  population’s mental health, as the numbers are far too staggering to accept—especially for groups in  which the determinants of poor mental health are exacerbated.” 

Here are a few insights you’ll find in NRC Health’s 2022 Healthcare Consumer Trends Report: 

1. Healthcare deferment has decreased and preventative care has suffered, but consumers are  returning in record numbers. 

Data shows that healthcare deferment is decreasing, and consumers are resuming services. However, healthcare systems should be mindful that some of the consumers who re-emerge could be sicker and  costlier to treat in 2022. While the COVID-19 pandemic caused many consumers to delay several types  of care, preventative care was particularly affected, especially in conditions where the COVID-19 virus  can be most acute.  

Findings include: 

  • Blood pressure tests declined 5.5%, from 54.2% in Q1 2020 to 48.7% in Q4 2021. 
  • Routine physical exams declined 4.7%, from 42.6% in Q1 2020 to 37.9% in Q4 2021. 
  • BMI (Body Mass Index) screenings declined 2.8%, from 14.0% in Q1 2020 to 11.2% in Q4 2021.  

2. Consumer mental health is suffering. 

The pandemic has taken a significant toll on mental health, and nearly one-third (30%) of consumers report that their mental health has worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although telehealth  usage has increased in counseling (206%), it is devastating to think that so many consumers are  reporting a pandemic-related worsening of mental health. Additionally, mental health hospitalizations  have increased by 190% between 2020 and 2021. 

The increased frequency of symptoms of anxiety and depression in a CDC study indicates that mental health services and resources, including telehealth behavioral services, are critical, particularly among populations disproportionately affected by COVID-19. 

3. Telehealth is growing, but healthcare systems should focus on the service lines that it works best with. 

While telehealth medicine struggled in years past with how reimbursement and logistics would work,  the widespread adoption of the technology is now holding consumer interest. 

Consumers’ excitement for telehealth has hovered around 55% throughout the pandemic, compared to  the pre-pandemic average of 49.3% in Q1 2020. Consumers 35 to 44 years old are the most excited  about telehealth (68.1%), whereas people 65 and older are the least enthusiastic (45.2%).  

Telehealth usage has increased in several provider specialties, including: 

  • Thoracic/cardiothoracic vascular surgery (223%) 
  • Social work (221%) 
  • Counseling (206%)  

Given that telehealth has more than doubled since 2020, healthcare systems should cultivate an  effective and meaningful telehealth practice and consider digital health innovations. Healthcare  systems should also prioritize provider time and attentiveness and financial transparency. 

4. Health systems should advertise personalized care to promote services and provide resources, because consumer healthcare recall is growing. 

Consumer healthcare recall is starting to climb, and healthcare systems can capitalize on this growing  trend. NRC Health data from Market Insights—which reports key performance indicators year over  year—find that marketing recall has increased 5.1%, from its lowest point of 59.4% in 2020 to 64.5% in  2021.  

Additionally, consumers report an increase in helpful health information from hospital websites (5.8%)  from 2020 to 2021. The number of consumers who have visited a hospital website is also up 4.6% since  November 2020—reaching an all-time high of 31% having visited a hospital website as of November 2021. 

5. Health systems must demonstrate an understanding of person’s unique needs to show Human  Understanding, which builds trust. 

Personalized experiences are slowly becoming the norm as consumers engage and share information  with hospitals and practitioners, who then use this information to personalize care experiences further.  With personalization at the center of emerging healthcare, consumers will seek new levels of health and  wellness—but only if healthcare organizations get it right. 

Consumers’ likelihood to recommend hospitals and health systems has increased by 3.9 points—from  20.2 in 2020 to 23.3 as of November 2021—while patient experience peaked during the onset of the  pandemic, with Net Promoter Scores coming in at 56 in April 2020 for hospital inpatients and  emergency departments but declining since, resulting in a Net Promoter Score of 44 in December 2021. 

The bottom line? It will be imperative for hospitals and health systems to know and understand each  person’s unique needs. 

Get Your Copy 

The NRC Health 2022 Healthcare Consumer Trends Report is based on the single most extensive  database of healthcare consumers, comprising more than two million consumer voices from 300,000  American households, sourced from more than 580 healthcare organizations across all 50 states.  Download it here.

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