Survey: Virtual Care Will Likely Outlast the Pandemic

By Business Wire | 09.10.20

Nine out of 10 patients consider the quality of care as good or better than before COVID-19.

Patients have embraced virtual care and communications at very high rates as a result of COVID-19 and nine out of 10 reported the quality of care was as good or better than before, according to findings of an Accenture survey of 2,700 oncology, cardiology, or immunology patients globally.
Sixty percent said that based on their experience during the pandemic, they want to use technology more for communicating with healthcare providers and managing their conditions in the future.
The survey was conducted in May across China, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States at a time when all participating countries were under some degree of government restrictions as a result of the global pandemic.
As restrictions came into effect, patients faced difficult choices about whether and how to continue their treatments. Many healthcare providers cancelled appointments, and transportation options were shut down. Patients were afraid to risk exposure to COVID-19 by going to their healthcare providers for regular treatment, and many (70 percent) deferred or cancelled at least some elements of their treatment.
But nearly half of all surveyed patients also started getting some treatment at home instead of going to their healthcare provider’s office and they began using virtual tools such as video conference calls, online chat, and apps. Sixty-three percent of those who used video conferencing said it was very good or excellent, an impressive response given 70 percent were using video conferencing for treatment for the first time. By using technology to support communication and care, healthcare providers were largely able to maintain or even improve on the patient experience.
“Along with the move to virtual forms of care and communication came a sense of greater satisfaction with the care provided,” explained Brad Michel, Accenture North America Life Sciences lead. “Many patients said they felt care was more personal, more convenient and timelier. Rather than having to commute to a doctor’s office or treatment facility and undergo the stress of sitting in a waiting room for their turn, care was now being administered at home — in a setting, time and place where people felt most comfortable. A good many also said the information they received was better.”
Forty-seven percent of respondents said they received better, more personalized responses; 41 percent said quicker responses and 40 percent said it was more convenient to access through new communications channels.
In addition, overall trust in the healthcare system has increased. Sixty percent of patients surveyed said their trust in healthcare providers have increased, and 45 percent said their trust in pharmaceutical and medical device companies has increased.
Virtual Care Helped Keep Some Clinical Trials Going
Worryingly, many clinical trials were disrupted by COVID-19. Seventy-seven percent of patients said their clinical trials were suspended or delayed, which could have a knock-on effect on the speed in which new treatments come to market.
However, for trials that continued, the use of virtual care was critical for consultations, treatment, and monitoring. Consider that 61 percent of patients whose trials continued used some form of virtual communication or care.
“Increasing virtual communication and treatment options offers multiple benefits for clinical trials, as one third of all patients in trials reported that even before COVID-19, they had difficulty making appointments or physically getting to clinics for treatment,” said Michel. “Patients want more video conferencing and fewer clinic visits, which would make clinical trials more convenient and accessible.”
Using virtual technologies as a regular part of the clinical trial process would not only improve resilience to disruptions but would help to improve the patient experience.
Patients said they want to be consulted more, but they are currently far from the center of the clinical trial design process. As decisions were being made on how to modify clinical trials due to COVID-19, only 14 percent of surveyed patients were asked about what changes would work for them. This held true across all therapeutic areas and geographies.
“The pandemic has shifted patient attitudes and expectations as they have embraced new digital tools. What we are seeing, and hearing is that virtual care is here to stay,” said Stuart Henderson, Accenture’s global Life Sciences lead. “Companies need to invest people, time and money now to build on this momentum to expand and enhance the tools and platforms they use to communicate with and provide care for patients. But technology is not enough, as companies must also continue to engage patients directly to deliver on expectations.”
The full report can be accessed here.
In May, Accenture surveyed 450 patients in each of the following six countries: China, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States to understand what changed for patient care during COVID-19, how patients felt about it, what they liked and what they want to continue in the future. Survey participants had to have been going to a health care facility for treatment or self-administering at home and have one of the following conditions: cardiovascular, immunology/rheumatology or oncology.