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Americans have a complicated relationship with the healthcare industry. While the political debate around how best to structure health payments and quality of care rages on, U.S. citizens are experiencing remarkable shifts in how they find and receive care, communicate with their providers and insurance companies, and even get advice from pharmaceutical firms and medical device companies, according to new research from Salesforce.

The Salesforce “2017 Connected Patient Report,” conducted by Harris Poll, surveyed more than 2,000 adults, ages 18 or older, for their opinions on how they currently -- and want to -- interact with their care providers, payers and drug companies. Key findings from the report include:

Doctor-patient communication today is still one-sided and antiquated.

  • A majority of Americans currently communicate with their doctors via traditional channels to schedule appointments, with 80% using the phone.
  • Three in five Americans who have health insurance and a primary care doctor (60%) say they rely on their doctor to keep track of their health records.
  • 28% of patients keep their health records in a folder, shoebox, lockbox, drawer or other home-based physical storage method - nearly the same amount (29%) that use a single self-service portal provided by their healthcare and/or insurance provider.

Insurance companies are an important resource to patients seeking care.

  • Millennials are more than three times as likely than baby boomers (26% vs. 7%) to use their insurance companies to find healthcare providers.
  • Nearly three in four Americans (72%) say it’s important that their health insurance providers use modern tools -- such as live chat/instant message and two-way video -- when communicating with them.

Pharmaceutical companies have an opportunity to engage with patients in new ways.

  • Nearly three in four (72%) respondents agree that they would choose drugs from pharmaceutical companies that are engaged in their outcomes vs. those who are not.
  • Three in five Americans are open to virtual support service options (e.g., video conference calls) with pharmaceutical companies to help them understand medications. This is especially true with millennials, as 70% want to leverage these modern technologies to communicate with their drug providers.
  • More than four in five Americans (83%) -- and 88% of millennials -- would share their experiences and direct feedback about medications with a pharmaceutical company to help improve their abilities to develop and support new medications.

AI in health causes both optimism and concern.

  • Among baby boomers, 74% are worried about AI providing an incorrect diagnosis vs. their doctor’s recommendation -- something only 60% of millennials were worried about, indicating a trust gap between generations.
  • When asked about currently available AI applications, baby boomers (28%) were significantly less likely than millennials (63%) to agree that they are interested in a digital assistant like Siri or Alexa recommending personalized healthy habits, similar to how online retailers recommend things to buy based on purchase history.

For providers, payers and life sciences companies to succeed, they need to adapt modern tools in communicating and advising patients along their care journeys. Understanding how best to connect with U.S. citizens will not only improve your business, but can have a lasting impact on patient outcomes.

If you’re interested in learning more about patient relationships with the healthcare industry, download the full Salesforce “2017 Connected Patient Report.” And to learn more about Salesforce solutions for healthcare, visit https://www.salesforce.com/solutions/industries/healthcare/health-cloud/.

Research ​​methodology

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of Salesforce from May 4-8, 2017, among 2,083 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Joel Steinfeld at jsteinfeld@salesforce.com.