Is your health strategy keeping pace with consumer expectations or shaping them? Is your health strategy keeping pace with consumer expectations or shaping them?

By Rachel Hall

EY US Consulting Digital Health and Smart Health Experience Leader

High energy health strategist. Passionate about improving quality of life, health and community wellness. Leader and mentor commited to growth, innovation and pushing the norms.

6 minute read 3 Jun 2019
Related topics Digital Health Innovation

US consumers and physicians agree that stakeholders must deliver convenience and personalization to customers in the next wave of health.

The health sector is at the cusp of reinvention, driven partly by pressures to reduce costs and improve quality of care and partly by the advent of new technologies, cheap sensors, ubiquitous connectivity and cloud storage. We are moving toward a participatory health ecosystem: one that puts consumers at the center of their own care journey.

Consumers already use the internet of things (IoT) and applications to gather personal data on everything from how they exercise and eat to how they sleep. This data about consumers, their unmet needs, and the products, services and digital interactions that fill their lives will become a critical input to proactively managing their health with a focus on prevention — redefining the entire industry.

Now health businesses must manage the dual task of providing exceptional services to their clients today while planning for a future in which care is delivered in a decentralized “anytime, anywhere” way, enabled by tech. We talked to consumers and physicians in our US NextWave Health Survey 2019 to show what must be considered to build a winning, digitally enabled health strategy.

Data privacy


of consumers are willing to share data with their physicians, broadly speaking

Creating better experiences

Convenience and personalization are the core features of the emerging model of “anytime, anywhere” care. A company must get close to the consumer and find the right digital tools as first steps toward developing a personalized engagement strategy. After all, precision health is more than identifying a symptom and prescribing a treatment; it consists of personalized engagement and experiences.

Are consumers receptive to this kind of relationship? In our survey, a majority say they are willing to share health-related data with their primary care physician (82%). However, this contrasts sharply with the percentage of consumers who used either administrative (67%) or diagnostic (47%) technologies to date.

When we asked consumers what would increase their digital engagement with physicians, several themes emerged: they’re looking for ways to save money, make care more convenient and reduce wait times — all essential parts of a future health strategy. When access to digital records was added to those three incentives, 93% said they would be willing to engage with their physicians digitally.

Physicians are also on board. Virtually all agreed that medical records are useful for managing their patients’ health and well-being. However, improving outcomes across a consumer’s life-span will require more than just the available clinical data: most of what determines how long we live and how healthy we are happens outside of the health care system.

Driving convenience

More convenient care options are also popular among consumers. Sixty percent are willing to use some form of retail health center or urgent care for non-emergency visits. In addition, 54% agreed that they are ready to be treated via an on-demand e-visit instead of in-person for common, acute issues.

While today’s convenience-based technologies are broadly popular, the more game-changing methods of care delivery — involving smart pills and virtual hospitals — are gaining traction only among younger consumers. This highlights the need for a strategy that has room for different types of consumers.

Digital efforts so far have fallen short. Health businesses built small bits of an experience to ease some frustrations, but they aren’t highly utilized. Take patient portals: patients say they want them, but the vast majority of people (about 70%) haven’t used them either to make an appointment or to pay a bill. The point solutions of today clearly aren’t delivering that or improving engagement.

Addressing concerns

Consumer-generated data is an important part of better personalization, better engagement and better care. People are willing to share some kinds of data; what kind depends on who they are and who they would be sharing it with.

Broadly speaking, consumers are willing to share data with their physicians (82%) but are more hesitant to do so with payers (44%). At the bottom of the list are employers (18%) and online retailers (10%). Even physicians face barriers to some data, with less than half of consumers expressing willingness to share buying/grocery shopping habits, and 22% being willing to share financial data.

When asked about the hesitation over sharing, the fear that data would be shared with a third party without consent (57%) and that it could be obtained maliciously by others (51%) topped the list of concerns.

What to do

The survey shows that some trends for companies reveal themselves, offering potential next steps as they look ahead:

  1. Build capacity in core services that consumers have interest in now. That includes preventive and sick care in retail settings. Pharmacogenetic tests — which can provide info about a drug’s effectiveness in an individual, what dose is best and what side effects the person can be at risk for — have decreased in cost and provide another opportunity.
  2. Invest in capabilities that physicians and consumers think are the future of health and are part of an end-to-end strategy. Those capabilities include digital tools that coordinate care delivery, smartphones that interface with the health system better, and algorithms and analytics that promise to tame the tsunami of user-generated and clinical data.
  3. Build trust — with all stakeholders. Unlike in other sectors, incumbents in health care have an edge in consumer trust that they should build on. An infrastructure that protects against credible threats is important, too; consumers indicated that theft and misuse of their data were at the top of their list of concerns.
  4. Create an integrated consumer and physician experience. Almost two-thirds of consumers believe digital solutions will improve convenience and personalization, while physicians want tools that improve efficiency and workflow (93%), the physician/patient relationship (92%) and enhance patient safety (92%). Approaching digital enablement through the lens of human-centered design is crucial.


Consumers are having exceptional experiences in other sectors where goods and services are convenient to access, can be purchased on demand and have transparent pricing. Delivering on this requires relentless focus on the consumer and a strategy that envisions a seamless start-to-finish experience. Our results show that convenience and personalization should be top of mind for health companies.

About this article

By Rachel Hall

EY US Consulting Digital Health and Smart Health Experience Leader

High energy health strategist. Passionate about improving quality of life, health and community wellness. Leader and mentor commited to growth, innovation and pushing the norms.

Related topics Digital Health Innovation