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New pediatric report unveils NRC Health’s 2022 health predictions

Today, NRC Health, the leading provider of in-depth customer intelligence in healthcare, released its 2022 Pediatric Consumer Trends Report. Culled from millions of data points captured in hundreds of thousands of consumer households, the report highlights consumers’ evolving preferences and behaviors related to crucial pediatric healthcare trends. It also delivers insights into how parental needs have shifted.

While pediatric consumers are returning in record numbers and healthcare recall and telehealth usage are growing, health systems must grapple with how to best care for patients’ mental health and demonstrate an understanding of patients’ unique needs to build trust.

“Healthcare leaders must move the industry forward by building consumer trust and ensuring that human understanding is part of every care experience,” says Helen Hrdy, Chief Growth Officer at NRC Health. “It is imperative that pediatric healthcare systems and hospitals make significant progress in treating children’s mental health, as the numbers are far too staggering to accept—especially for groups where the determinants of poor mental health are exacerbated.”

Here are a few insights you’ll find in the NRC Health 2022 Pediatric Consumer Trends Report.

Parents are delaying healthcare less and are returning to healthcare in record numbers.

NRC Health data shows that as of Q4 2021, 11.6% of parents stated that they had delayed pediatric care for a child in the household, compared to 12.3% in Q4 2020. Additionally, 42.6% of parents stated that concerns over COVID-19 very much impacted their decision to delay care.

Fortunately, the rate at which parents are resuming services has risen by 135% from 2020 to 2021 across all major service lines. The largest increases of volume in major service lines come from:

Urgent Care Setting (170%)
Emergency Care Setting (158%)
Inpatient Care Setting (143%)
Outpatient Services (139%)
Medical Practice Care Setting (128%)

A small but easily overlooked percentage of parents don’t plan to return to healthcare or are unsure when they’ll do so. As of Q4 2021, 12.5% of parents say they are unsure when to resume healthcare activities, and 5.5% say they will not return to healthcare.

Parents are delaying healthcare less and are returning to healthcare in record numbers.

There is strong and consistent excitement around telehealth, but pediatric healthcare systems should strategically determine which services work best with the technology.

NRC Health data shows that telehealth’s inherent ease of use, increased amount of time spent with providers, courtesy, respect received, and attentiveness has made the technology a winner, but only for specific groups. Increased telehealth usage has grown with pediatric groups such as:

Psychology (133%)
Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics (128%)
Medical Genetics (127%)
Family Medicine (124%)
Psychological Care (133%)

Beyond these areas, telehealth usage in pediatrics has decreased in almost every area, so pediatric healthcare systems must use telehealth strategically.

The pandemic’s toll on mental health is staggering— children’s mental-health hospitalizations alone have increased by 163% from 2020 to 2021. Pediatric healthcare systems need to act now to offer mental-health resources and preventative mental-health resources to their communities.

NRC Health’s Real-time Feedback data finds that mental-health hospitalizations of children have increased by 163% from 2020 to 2021. In early 2021, emergency-department visits in the United States for suspected suicide attempts were 51% higher for adolescent girls and 4% higher for adolescent boys compared to the same time in early 2019.

While parents have noticed an increase in advertising relating to preventative care and wellness, from 19.1% in Q1 2020 to 21.6% in Q4 2021, they have also experienced a delay in several types of care, and are now facing barriers to resuming care due to staffing/scheduling and COVID policies.

Because pediatric care was delayed, new data shows that parents report a decrease in child immunizations, an indicator of preventative care, from 25.5.% in Q1 2020 to 21% in Q4 2021. Further, parents report slightly higher rates of their own worsened mental health (32.4%) than consumers without children in the household (29.9%) in Q4 2021.

An increase of consumers naming a healthcare system shows that healthcare recall is rising, but pediatric facilities have not stood out.

NRC Health data reveals that among health organizations adults visit, marketing recall has increased by 4.8% from its lowest point of 59.4% in 2020 to 66.3% in 2021. However, for pediatric facilities specifically, that percentage has remained stagnant (at 1.5%) in 2020 and 2021.

Advertising for pediatric services among parents has only marginally improved, with 9.1% of parents recalling seeing advertising for pediatric services in 2021, compared to 8.1% in 2020.

Fortunately, the number of consumers visiting a pediatric-hospital website has increased by 5.3% from 2020 to 2021. An all-time high of 41.4% of consumers report having visited a pediatric-hospital website as of Q4 2021, so the commitment within pediatrics marketing-communications technology is important.

Pediatric health systems must demonstrate an understanding of patients’ unique needs and preferences to show Human Understanding in action, which builds trust.

NRC Health data uncovers that consumers’ likelihood of recommending pediatric hospitals and health systems (Net Promoter Score or NPS) has increased slightly (0.3 points, from 45.8 to 46.1) from 2020 to 2021. Although slight, consumer NPS for pediatric hospitals has not shown an upward trend in several years. Conversely, the pediatric patient experience peaked during the onset of the pandemic with an NPS at 69 in April 2020 for hospital inpatients and emergency departments but has been declining since, resulting in an NPS of 53 in December 2021.

The key to enhancing a patient’s care journey is understanding their preferences in advance, which can be achieved with communication assessments. Pediatric healthcare systems should deliver a person-centered, equity-focused experience as a standard measure across care settings, and treat each patient as unique while personalizing their experience.

The bottom line? It will be imperative for pediatric hospitals and health systems to know and understand each person’s unique needs.

The NRC Health 2022 Pediatric Consumer Trends Report is based on the nation’s single most extensive database of healthcare consumers, with more than two million consumer voices from 300,000 American households, sourced from more than 580 healthcare organizations across all 50 states. The report is available for download here.