Health systems are prioritizing improving patient satisfaction this year—we think it means they’ll invest more heavily in telehealth

The data: About 42% of health system execs say improving patient satisfaction scores are a top strategic priority over the next 12 months, and around 83% say improving patient access with digital tools is a top strategic priority, per Verato and Sage Growth Partners’ survey of 100 healthcare execs.

What’s driving the numbers: Health systems say large, digital-first players like Optum and CVS pose a strong threat to their business.

Nearly 50% of US health system executives believe Optum (a part of UnitedHealth Group) is an “extreme” competitive threat, while around 47% of execs say CVS Health/Aetna is a “strong” threat, per a September 2021 Kaufman Hall report.

  • That’s likely because Optum’s has a provider network of over 53,000 physicians across the US, many of which offer patients specialized virtual care services.
  • In fact, last year, Optum announced it’s expanding its virtual care business, Optum Virtual Care across all 50 states—a geographic footprint most health systems don’t have yet.
  • And Optum isn’t the only healthcare player offering patients more telehealth options than their local health systems: Last August, CVS Health launched its insurer-backed virtual primary care solution nationwide, Aetna Virtual Primary Care.

What’s next? We suspect health systems will invest more heavily in telehealth services to boost patient satisfaction and play catchup to the likes of Optum and CVS over the next 12 months.

Most patients already prefer virtual care services over in-person visits due to factors like easy scheduling and cost:

  • Many patients (namely 28% of Gen Zers) say lower out-of-pocket costs are drawing them toward telehealth.
  • Moreover, the ability to quickly schedule or move around an appointment online makes virtual care a more attractive option for convenience-hungry patients. About 44% of Gen Zers and 43% of millennials use telehealth for easy appointment scheduling, per Insider Intelligence’s January 2021 Telehealth Trend survey.

Many large health systems like Kaiser Permanente and OSF Healthcare already have their own venture funds, which have a history of making large investments for virtual care services over the past year.

  • So, it’s not far off to imagine these health systems deepening their virtual care investments this year to grow patient satisfaction scores.
  • For example, last September, OSF Ventures participated in pediatric telemental health startup DotCom Therapy’s $13 million Series A raise.