As many medical practices began to lift restrictions and return to their pre-COVID patient protocols this summer, Weave fielded a survey of over 1,400 patients and providers to understand how patient expectations had changed during the pandemic. That study found that a new patient boom, staffing shortages, and changing client expectations would challenge small healthcare practices through the end of the year. Then the Delta variant hit.

Weave fielded a new study in September, in partnership with Dynata, of 1,000 adults across the U.S., to understand whether the Delta variant is putting a damper on patients’ plans to return to regular office visits, and whether patients had new or different expectations for practices during the Delta variant than they did during the first COVID wave. 

The findings showed that 69% of patients say they plan to schedule a non-emergency healthcare visit within the next 3 months in our latest survey, compared to 70% in our earlier survey. The patient boom will continue, and seems unimpacted by the surge in the Delta variant across the U.S.

But the findings don’t stop there…

Key Eye-Opening Findings:

1. Delta variant is impacting patients’ confidence that they won’t contract the virus. 

Our September findings showed that only 55% of patients say they’re less likely to contract COVID-19 today than last year. When we asked that same question in our previous survey over the summer, 70% of patients made the claim. The Delta variant is making more patients concerned they could contract the virus.

2. Safety protocols are still expected in small healthcare practices. 

87% of patients continue to expect mask mandates for in-person appointments given the rise in the Delta COVID-19 virus.

3. Patients are experiencing fewer safety protocols during Delta variant than during the first wave of COVID.

Just 66% of patients reported experiencing required safety protocols like social distancing and mask mandates in healthcare offices in the last month, even though 79% of patients expect those requests from healthcare providers.

This points to an interesting patient expectation gap regarding safety measures, and healthcare offices may be under-estimating their patients’ acceptance of safety protocols in an office setting. 

4. Older patients continue to have increased expectations around COVID protocols during the Delta variant.

Not surprisingly, an overwhelming majority (91%) of respondents aged 65+ reported they expect mask-wearing to be a requirement for in-person healthcare visits. However, only 72% of the 65+ respondents reported having to wear a mask during a visit during the same time period.

The same expectation gap among older patients is also indicated among female patients as well. 83% of female patients expect healthcare offices to require social distancing protocols during an office visit. However, only 67% have reported experiencing this safety measure during an office visit in the last month. 

The bottom line: Healthcare practices that serve a diverse set of patients may have actually pulled too far back on implementing safety protocols that specific groups, in particular, are expecting to see when they next visit their provider.

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Tips for Small Healthcare Practices During Delta Variant

To assure patients that you are doing everything reasonably possible to protect them from the COVID-19 delta variant while delivering impressive and timely healthcare, try the following: 

  • You can make scheduling easier for the 53% of patients that say it’s taking more time than usual to be seen at a healthcare clinic. This small 3% drop, when compared to our summer survey, shows that more and more practices are embracing the contactless, effortless tools that helped practices survive the pandemic and intake patients quickly
  • These same tools are also contributing to the slight drop in the 40% of patients that say current wait times to be seen by a healthcare provider are unacceptable as opposed to 44% last year. 

There’s a lesson for every small healthcare provider to learn from these results- either you need to discover new safety communication and patient protocols or know that your new efforts to improve safety are highly appreciated by the majority of patients. 

You can find more insights to power your practice by downloading Weave’s free 2021 Healthcare Business Insights Report, including information on staffing problems plaguing U.S. practices and how to build more efficiency for your staff.