Consumers bring retail sensibility to healthcare choices

08 February 2017

Patients no longer simply accept the health services available from traditional providers. PwC’s recent consumer research shows that people are now increasingly willing to use a variety of technologies to take responsibility for, manage and improve their health. These trends are likely to be highly influential in shaping the design and delivery of healthcare services in the future – particularly at a time when the NHS is under increased strain.

Patients/consumers today are better informed than ever and therefore much more demanding, discerning and engaged in their healthcare. And they’re bringing a retail sensibility to their engagement with healthcare providers. Our research shows that six out of ten adults have taken steps in the last year to improve their health. Most of these measures have focused on what people consume or do. For example, they’re cutting down on sugar or alcohol or taking more regular exercise. But a number are also looking to technology to help them achieve their health goals. One in ten adults in the UK uses a wearable device to monitor their health and wellbeing, and similar numbers use apps to track their nutrition and exercise.

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Other healthcare services delivered through digital channels, for example smartphone apps, are also beginning to take off in the UK. While not as advanced as they are in the US, some digital services are beginning to address new ways that consumers want to access health information and advice. And some consumers say that they would be happy to use these new channels to talk with their doctors. A quarter would use email or online live chat to do so, with slightly fewer (16%) willing to use Skype to communicate with healthcare providers.


Nonetheless, estimates suggest that spending on telehealth will increase by 23% between 2015 and 2020 to reach £320 million and the market for health apps will more than double to hit £460 million.


Of course, not all consumers see the services they want in the same way. The older demographic groups tend to favour established and trusted brands with healthcare at their core. But while largely reliant on the NHS today, they are prepared to increase what they spend on healthcare in the future. Younger consumers focus on fitness and wellness and are interested in the speed and convenience that they can get from using new services. They place far less emphasis on services being badged by a traditional healthcare provider and are open to new and innovative services that use technology to enable more efficient and quicker access to the advice and services they need.

Understanding the requirements of these different consumer groups will be important when it comes to designing new services. But it’s far from an ‘either/or’ between the traditional (e.g. the NHS) and other providers. Joint innovation and partnerships are going to be central to the evolution of healthcare as providers find new ways to address changing demand with fewer resources. PwC’s research indicates that it will be an increasingly complex and consumer-driven future. Find out more here.

Reena Virdee  |  Manager
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