Health Behavior has Flipped on its Head

The COVID-19 pandemic has – for better or worse – made a lasting impact on healthcare delivery. Systems that had been slow adopters of virtual care had to rapidly rethink service delivery. The intersection of consumer h ealth behavior and the patient experience with their medical care is an important connection in understanding and improving patient outcomes while also increasing patient utilization and loyalty toward available care. As noted in a recent Qualtrics report[1], historically, healthcare organizations have focused heavily on measuring everything. The problem is that they don’t know how to act on the data they get. As a result, chasing numbers and metrics has not yielded the progress that was expected. There’s much more to improving patient experiences than good patient satisfaction survey results. Creating a culture that values the patient experience and uses data to drive decisions is critical. The same report examined how healthcare leaders are rethinking patient care as consumerism drives change in patient care expectations, particularly in the delivery of virtual care. Providers are shifting to understand that patient experience is not just a metric to drive accountability, but rather that the numbers (quantitative) and the stories (qualitative) are both crucial to understanding the whole picture of patient experience. Dynata recently published “Global Consumer Trends: Health Edition,”[2] a report on a large international study that included 11 countries and around 1,000 respondents from each country. In the report, they examined the attitudes and opinions of consumers surrounding both vaccines and general health and well-being around the world. Here we examine some of the insights from the report.  

Highlights from Dynata’s Report:


People are glad the vaccines are available, and they are ready for their shots…but there are some concerns.

  • Close to half of men (49%) would like to get vaccinated right away, compared with 36% of women.

  • Baby Boomers (49%) and the Silent Generation (56%) have highest levels of wanting to get the vaccine as soon as it’s available.

  • Women (37%) and Millennials (42%) are more concerned about longer-term side effects of the vaccine.

  • France (42%) and the USA (40%) are the countries with the greatest concern about longer-term effects (“extremely” or “very”), while the UK (46%) and Germany (53%) are least worried (“slightly” or “not at all”).

feeling more stressed or anxious than before the pandemic
  • The UK is most enthusiastic about getting vaccinated right away and among the least worried about longer-term effects. People in Japan are most hesitant about the vaccines, with 53% wanting to be sure it’s safe first.

  • For vaccine information, people trust their family doctor or other medical professionals they know personally (59%).

  • News media, government officials, and social media are less trusted sources.

Mental health is a concern, and people are taking comfort in family and friends.

  • Four in ten consumers report a rise in anxiety or stress during the pandemic.

  • 45% of women are feeling “much more” or “a little more” anxiety/stress during the pandemic; this is compared to 37% of men.

  • Gen Z, Millennials, and Gen X are feeling more anxiety/stress (at least 42% for all) than Baby Boomers & Silent Generation at 36% each.

  • Talking to a friend and/or family member is the top choice to cope with this increase, at 43% (47% among women); that’s more than twice as popular as consulting a mental health professional.

  • More than eight in ten (83%) plan to continue their anxiety/stress management practice after the pandemic.

  • Exercise is on the rise, and streaming fitness services/apps are getting a boost.

  • Half of consumers are exercising as much or more than they were before.

  • Among those exercising more now, 54% are doing so in their homes.

  • More Gen Z and Millennials (both 40%) are exercising to prevent COVID-19 complications, the highest among all generations; men under 35 are especially likely to be exercising to ward off more serious illness.

Healthcare and Patient Access.
doctors or healthcare professionals before the pandemic
  • How people have seen doctors or healthcare professionals during the pandemic: - 36% in person exclusively - 32% telemedicine and in person - 32% telemedicine exclusively

  • Most (82%) who saw a doctor through telemedicine during the pandemic did so for the first time.

  • 53% of people who used telemedicine during the pandemic plan to continue using it after the pandemic is over.

  • Younger generations found their telemedicine experience more satisfying than older telemedicine users; men of all ages were more satisfied than women.

Upside down and inside out

Now more than ever, healthcare and well-being researchers need to examine not just what the trends are showing, but how the populations they work with or study are responding in similar or different ways. From rural to urban communities, cultural perspectives and even individual risk profiles are playing a role in how these very personal human choices are being made. On top of the need to validate trend application within patient or client populations, online data collection validity and timing is an area of extra focus. Panels and communities have been increasingly relied upon, the modes which are almost the exclusive options of researchers, making respondent fatigue and error a factor to monitor among researchers.  

This does not mean we should shy away from research. Quite the opposite. In the quote above, Qualtrics described the importance of valuing patient experience and using data to drive decisions. While quantitative research provides valuable data, the addition of qualitative research adds a layer of insight that allows for decision making which takes into account individual behavior and experiences. As researchers, we should embrace this opportunity to cultivate insights from the changing healthcare landscape but do so with knowledge and rigor of potential obstacles and challenges.

Clearly, research is showing that Covid forced changes to healthcare that were needed, exposed fissures, and brought additional stakeholders into the discussion of what’s happening and why (or why not) inside population health. As human behavior researchers, this is all fascinating as we see how these trends will influence patient behavior in the years ahead. Covid flipped healthcare upside down, and now we get to see how things land.  

[1] “How 4 leaders are boldly rethinking the patient experience.” 2021. Qualtrics. [2] “Global Consumer Trends: Health Edition.” 2021. Dynata.

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