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How 2020’s Events Have Paved a Digital Health Transformation

2020 was a difficult year as COVID-19 has drastically changed the way we live. The pandemic has held a magnifying glass up to the US healthcare industry that highlights both the heroism of frontline workers as well as the flaws within an industry that, at times, delivers poor customer experiences due to the complexities with which its burdened. As the healthcare industry continues to battle the pandemic, businesses and organizations are working to understand how this year’s events have changed consumer behaviors and to identify long-term versus short-term transformational needs for consumers.

Health has seen a general increase in paid media spend as many health organizations are adopting a digital-first approach in light of the pandemic. With reps unable to walk into physician offices, curating the right digital experience for customers became a focus. On the payer side, the customer profile changed drastically – many adapted easily into a digital ecosystem. Health insurance plans shifted spend to accommodate appropriately. However, we have also seen fluctuations across various sub verticals.

For examples, regional providers (hospital networks) had significant declines in media spend due to travel restrictions by state. However, Google spend improvements in Q3 are consistent with what we are seeing in the health vertical. Those organizations who saw major dips in Q2 starting to slowly pick up in late Q3 as state restrictions lifted and travel slightly picked up.

Looking at 2021 and beyond, we see a series of trends that will be driving demand including the anticipation of more consumers becoming unemployed, which will likely create a larger percentage of consumers eligible for Medicaid and a higher need for short-term medical policies.

1. Surge in ACA plans

Unemployment rates have risen as the impact of the pandemic on the economy has driven a significant increase in the number of consumers available to shop for an Affordable Care Act (ACA) plan, including a new surge of consumers now eligible for Medicaid and related subsidies. Although the ACA has weathered the storm of political controversy and the changes that were implemented beginning in 2017, enrollment is down. This may be a reflection of consumers taking a “wait and see” approach to enrollment, perhaps anticipating a return to employment or considering lower-premium short-term plans to save money and bridge the economic gap.

2. Steeper 2022 premiums

As social and economic restrictions have eased, payers are seeing rebounding claims that may be an indicator of future costs. But, like consumers, most payers have taken a “wait and see” approach to pricing plans currently being offered in Open Enrollment. During the pandemic, payers waived COVID-related co-pays for virtual mental health coverage and drug affordability programs through 2020, and many are highlighting similar new benefits for 2021 plans. With modest premium increases for 2021, payers will be monitoring population health closely. Depending on what 2021 brings, we may see steeper increases in 2022 premiums.

3. Telehealth becomes a necessity

Healthcare businesses and organizations are responding with increased consumer empathy and taking a customer-first approach. Startups and new technologies are accelerating access to healthcare in remote areas and remote working has shone a spotlight on the importance, awareness, and impact of mental health. Many businesses have developed wearables, apps, and devices as new ways for consumers to manage their health without having to ever visit a provider’s office. Consumers were quick to take advantage of health monitoring wearables like Amazon’s Halo to keep an eye on their heath.  Consumers have also become much more likely to embrace telehealth visits. These trends have accelerated in 2020 and we can expect many of these trends to continue post-pandemic.

Want to learn more? Check out Merkle’s Digital Marketing Report here.

This article was originally published by dentsu here.