No Match Found
A new global health study from PwC of more than 10,000 participants in 10 different countries, including insights from over 1,000 Australians, shows a significant increase in virtual healthcare services jumping from 40% prior to the pandemic to 54% with telehealth (phone calls) the most popular virtual communication channel. The Global Health Industries Survey also reveals the government as the most trusted source of information during the pandemic among Australian respondents compared to global health agencies and primary care doctors or specialists.
Sarah Butler, PwC Australia Health Leader, said, “COVID-19 has accelerated digital transformation globally and across all industries, including healthcare, forcing rapid digitisation, increasing demands and expectations from informed and connected consumers. We also saw clinicians embracing the shift to virtual care, enabled by funding. Going forward, we have the opportunity to embed this into our healthcare system, with investment in infrastructure, data privacy, cyber security and skills - optimising the mix of virtual and in-person care to ensure equitable access to the right care in the right place at the right time, with more sustainable affordable costs.
“Leveraging this trust in government communications channels, and through primary care networks will likely promote wider acceptance of distributed medical information and guidance,” said Butler.
Virtual health a viable option for Australians going forward
The use of non-face-to-face models of care saw a significant increase across all respondents during the COVID-19 pandemic. In people aged 45 and over, only one in five said they had received virtual healthcare treatment, however during the pandemic this increased to one in two people in the same age group. The majority of the increase overall has been in telehealth (phone calls) jumping from 22% to 35% with video only increasing marginally.
For those who used video virtual health, 80% said they had some issues with the appointment, however, despite this, a very large proportion of people are willing to use video virtual health again after the pandemic. Around three quarters of Australian consumers said they are open to interacting with healthcare systems on digital platforms and will continue using virtual health services, where applicable, even after they return to in-person care as COVID-19 risks ease. Australians aged between 25-44 had the highest acceptance with 94% opting to continue using virtual healthcare services in the future.
PwC Australia National Health Consulting Lead, Nathan Schlesinger, said, “Following the openness to this shift to virtual models of care, there is an opportunity to drive accessibility to and efficiency across healthcare settings while simultaneously improving patient experience by streamlining service delivery. Healthcare providers and funders should consider those services that are fit for virtual care, encompassing different channels like video, phone and text, so that those services that typically do not require face-to-face consultation are delivered in a way that best matches the channel's capability.
“Virtual health, especially video consults can be 'fit for purpose' in the types of services delivered. While there were some issues reported around practitioner or patient comfort on camera, these may reduce as this service delivery model matures and becomes an accepted, and trusted, service delivery model. While the pandemic has encouraged (or in some cases forced) the adoption of virtual health services for older generations, only two out of five Australians over 65 are willing to use video virtual healthcare services once the pandemic risk is decreased.”
The majority of respondents said they would be more comfortable going to the doctor if preventative hygiene measures were in place, including mandatory mask wearing; sanitising hands on entering and leaving appointments; limiting the number of patients allowed at any given time; and temperature checks on arrival. A combination of measures is required to make ‘worried’ respondents feel more comfortable, including mandatory mask wearing (57%), sanitising hands (56%), limiting the number of patients allowed at any given time (54%) and temperature checks (54%).
Australian government ranked No.1 as trusted source of information
When trying to influence behaviours, or communicate messages, the Australian government came out on top with 41% of Australian respondents ranking the ‘national government’ as a trusted source of information during the pandemic. A similar proportion of respondents also ranked their primary care doctor (35%) and global health agencies such as the World Health Organisation (34%) in the top three. This differs from the global average in comparison, where global health agencies and primary care doctors or specialists ranked higher than national government.
Australians in poor health were two times more likely to trust their GP for accurate health information (46%) ahead of the government (36%), global health agencies (28%), or a news source (19%). Those rated as in good health would trust the national government ahead of any other source (43%) - older generations are more inclined to trust the government for information during the pandemic (45-54: 46%, 55-64: 52%, 65+: 63%), and those aged 55-64 and 65+ were more likely to trust their GP than younger generations (55-64: 56%, 65+: 65% vs 18-24:27%, 25-34:31%, 35-44: 35%).
Australians delayed medical care over COVID-19
The survey revealed 21% of Australians experience delayed care due to COVID-19, with the largest type of deferred care being annual physical/well/preventive visits (32%). Of those that had their care delayed, 52% of cases had to wait 2-5 months, while 28% had a delay of six or more months.
During the height of the pandemic in Australia, visits to the doctor decreased with one in two people stating they were worried about attending in-person medical appointments at the time. Younger generations including Generation Z, Millennials, and Generation X were more likely to be worried than older generations - 44%, 45%, and 50% respectively, as well as those overall who rated themselves in good health (43%). In contrast, only 17% aged 65 or older and 33% who rated themselves in poor health were worried about physically going to the doctor’s office.
“The volume of care that has been rescheduled or missed altogether will have an impact on individual health outcomes and the efficiency and cost of delivering care in the future. Delays in early interventions or less attention on preventative care can potentially cause ‘downstream’ implications on the healthcare system in the future,” said Butler.
“The good news is that Australians who described their health as 'poor' in our survey were more inclined to keep up their visits to the doctor. While this could be the result of necessity in treating pre-existing medical conditions, it is encouraging that those in poor health maintained the vigilance of their care despite possible exposure to, or impacts of, COVID-19. Going forward we will need to gear up to catch-up on preventative health and elective surgery, both through the public and private health sector.
“Delays in early interventions or less attention on preventative care can potentially cause ‘downstream’ implications on the healthcare system in the future. The good news is that Australians who described their health as 'poor' in our survey were more inclined to keep up their visits to the doctor. While this could be the result of necessity in treating pre-existing medical conditions, it is encouraging that those in poor health maintained the vigilance of their care despite possible exposure to, or impacts of, COVID-19.”
Young and vulnerable people require additional mental health support
Almost one in two respondents of average, poor or very poor health experienced symptoms of anxiety or depression as a result of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting that the most physically vulnerable populations required additional support and care to ensure their ongoing holistic health and wellbeing. Similarly, the study showed mental health impacts were more acutely felt by younger generations, with 40% of 18-44 year olds experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression (vs. 29% of those aged 45 or older).
Australians who are otherwise in good health experienced symptoms of anxiety or depression as a result of COVID-19 (34%); symptoms were most prevalent among respondents with average health (45%) and poor/very poor health (45%). Of the respondents in good health that experienced symptoms of anxiety or depression, 51% used exercise to alleviate or cope with their symptoms. Almost half (48%) of those aged 35-44 experienced symptoms of anxiety or depression as a result of COVID-19, while one in three respondents from younger generations also experienced symptoms (38% for those aged 18-24 and 25-34 respectively).
Mature aged Australians most keen to receive vaccine
Forty-two per cent of all Australian respondents said they will get the vaccine as soon as it is available, with 28% stating they would within a year. While there was no difference between health types with regards to vaccine uptake, those on higher incomes were more willing to get the vaccine sooner. Trust in sources of information and evidence also ranked as the most important for respondents (54% of total) to have the COVID-19 vaccine sooner - 70% in the high income bracket are willing to get the vaccine sooner, compared to those in the low income bracket (31%).
The majority of people from younger generations are hesitant to receive the vaccine compared to older generations who are very enthusiastic to receive the vaccine when it becomes available, suggesting a potential feeling of urgency due to their perceived vulnerability. Respondents aged 65+ are the most enthusiastic about receiving the vaccine as soon as it is available (69%), making them twice as likely as Generation Z (33%) and much higher than those 25-34 (39%) to be keen to get it as soon as it becomes available.
“To address vaccine hesitancy to encourage greater take-up and continue to reinforce the need for testing and other public health measures, our survey shows there’s an opportunity to leverage trusted communications channels with the right messaging tailored for different consumer segments. This would include governments, primary care practitioners, global health agencies and other channels, reflecting differences by age, health and socio-economic status," Butler noted.
"COVID-19 put health front and centre for everyone. As we tilt from response to recovery and reform, we have a ‘silver lining’ opportunity to embed some of the positive changes during the pandemic. We have accelerated a decade's worth of reform in virtual care. We have seen greater awareness of the benefits of healthy behaviours for prevention and the need to target interventions for our most vulnerable people, leveraging data analytics and trusted sources of information. And we have seen the need to address health holistically - physical, mental and social health - with an integrated approach from prevention through care that puts people at the centre," concluded Butler.
To view the PwC Global Top Health Industry Issues 2021 survey, click here.
At PwC, our purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems. We’re a network of firms in 157 countries with over 276,000 people who are committed to delivering quality in assurance, advisory and tax services. Find out more and tell us what matters to you by visiting us at www.pwc.com.
PwC refers to the PwC network and/or one or more of its member firms, each of which is a separate legal entity. Please see www.pwc.com/structure for further details.
© 2020 PwC. All rights reserved