There isn’t an industry that hasn’t been affected by the turmoil of the last three years. Between COVID-19, rising inflation, supply chain challenges, and worker shortages, businesses in all industries are in a state of limbo, waiting for the next unprecedented event to unfold. 

The healthcare and insurance industries have been hit particularly hard as the pandemic, staff burnout, and politics have infiltrated what was once a benign facet of American society. Healthcare and insurance companies face many challenges in today’s world that market research (MR) can help solve. This article contains the top six pain points for the industries and how MR can tackle them. 

Healthcare & Insurance Pain Points 

#1 COVID-19

While we’d all like to believe that the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us, the reality is that cases continue to rise in major cities, with ever-present variants behind the wheel. Medical experts attribute the increase in cases to BA.5, an offshoot of the omicron variant. 

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, health care centers, hospitals, and health insurers struggled to accommodate rising patient numbers, employee burnout, workforce shortages, and supply chain disruptions. Travel bans made it challenging to outsource work, and the increasing costs of healthcare (worker wages, equipment, medications, etc.), meant that many healthcare providers had to change their workflow. Digital transformation, particularly telehealth and automation, became and will continue to be necessary. 

#2 Healthcare Worker Shortages

COVID has caused many problems for the healthcare and insurance industry, the most pronounced being the healthcare worker shortage. The shortage of healthcare workers has worsened as more workers quit or retire without replacements coming on their heels. This shortage poses challenges for both patients and providers alike: patients cannot receive proper care if they don’t have access to doctors or nurses; providers struggle with burnout because they aren’t able to keep up with demand, and hospitals end up cutting corners on staffing levels because they’re losing money.

These staffing shortages have made automation more critical than ever to ensure patients are being treated and workers aren’t overworked. Patient journey automation and artificial intelligence (AI) can potentially eliminate manual administrative and clinical work involved in patient care if done with customer feedback leading the way.

Automation is also beneficial in the insurance industry, where insurers struggle to fill office seats and process claims. According to a McKinsey report, one in ten insurance claims is incorrect, and the health insurer can challenge the claim’s amount. Identifying those claims is tedious and requires manpower, but can be handled by intelligent algorithms, ensuring customers receive the correct billing statements.

#3 Technology in Healthcare

The driving force behind change in healthcare is finding ways to do more and give more with fewer resources. In that vein, one of the major pain points for healthcare market researchers is to figure out how to make healthcare workers’ jobs easier with technology that also resonates with patients. 

According to Deloitte’s 2019 Global Health Care Outlook report, “the future of health care requires data as well as technologies that can effectively use data.” The healthcare industry has a lot of patient data; however, until very recently, it’s not been adequately utilized. In the last few years, the industry has begun to understand how valuable this data is for treating patients effectively and keeping them healthy long-term.

#4 Mental Health

Nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness (52.9 million in 2020), a trend that appears to be growing thanks to pandemic lockdowns, rising costs, social media, and political instability. Mental health challenges heavily burden the global economy, public and private health care systems, and people.

The challenge of mental health in America is to make it available, relevant, and cost-effective for all, a challenge the US has been failing for decades. 

#5 Health Equity & Reproductive Rights

Health equity is about access to healthcare, but it’s not just about healthcare access; it’s also about the quality and cost of care. It includes clinical, mental, social, emotional, physical, and spiritual healthcare.

After studies illustrated that COVID-19 disproportionately impacts historically marginalized groups and that these groups experience barriers to health and wellness care, health equality became a hot topic of conversation. 

Reproductive rights, including abortion options, are a controversial topic, with many states and patients trying to make sense of the abolition of Roe V. Wade.

#6 High Cost of Medications in the US

You don’t need to be a doctor or an insurance provider to know that medication costs are a significant concern for consumers. According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), nearly 18% of healthcare spending in the United States is related to prescription drugs. That’s over $375 billion annually on medications (about $1,000 per person).

These costs compounded with historically high inflation rates mean consumers may switch to cheaper medications or forgo taking their medications at all. Healthcare companies must decipher how to keep medication costs for their patients or offer financial aid to those most vulnerable. 

Bottom Line

If you’re a market researcher, you already know your job is challenging. The consumers you study are broken down, tired, and want relief. They want to be heard, understood and validated as people with a real stake in the data they provide.

If you’re a healthcare or insurance professional, we hope this article has helped you understand the pain points your customers are experiencing. Market research plays a pivotal role in helping you navigate these challenges as it allows you to gain rich insights into the minds of your patients. Through surveys, focus groups, in-depth interviews, and observation, healthcare and insurance firms can help make healthcare more positive, equitable, and effective than ever, even amidst these tough challenges. 
To survive this turbulent time in healthcare and insurance, providers must centralize patient data, track patients’ journeys from start to finish, gather feedback, and utilize technology to improve the healthcare experience. Check out our blog article, User Experience for Healthcare Professionals, to learn more about healthcare user experience (UX).