New report from Boots points to a new era of on-demand healthcare services

A new report from Boots finds the increasing popularity of digital healthcare services is creating a new era of on-demand healthcare post-pandemic. 

The Boots Digital Healthcare Trends Report 2021 draws on insights from a new patient survey, expert insights and data from Boots, and broader industry studies. 

Marc Donovan, chief pharmacist at Boots, said: “Customers turned to digital healthcare to access support for a range of conditions during the pandemic, with many finding they liked the speed and convenience it offers. Wider availability of low cost, pay-as-you go digital services can also help to relieve some of the extra pressures imposed on our NHS by COVID-19. In response, we have launched a range of new digital-first healthcare services and we are looking at how else we can support patients in this way.”

The report reveals the following eight key trends:

1.    Digital Health Services Are Creating A New Era of On-Demand Healthcare: The pandemic has forced us to reassess how we live and stay healthy in an age where convenience and speed are highly prized. Digital services have expanded during the pandemic with 65% of GP appointments switching to telephone or video consultations.Boots’ patient survey report shows that 88% of those who used digital healthcare services during the pandemic plan to continue to use them in the future.  

2.    Patients Want Convenience and Speed: People are taking more control of their own health. Being able to access advice and treatments, swiftly via a smart phone, tablet or computer, was a high priority among patients surveyed – a substantial 59% said they would continue to use digital because it is a convenient way to look after their health.

3.    On-Demand Healthcare: The report showed clearly that patients do not want to wait when it comes to their health. Boots Online Doctor services are particularly popular among the 20 to 34 age group, making up over half of all patients. 

4.    The Route to Fast Healthcare Services: Paying for health services as and when people are needing them are gaining popularity and almost half of respondents (48%) who would consider paying for treatments thought digital would be quicker than accessing care through their GP.

5.    Comfort, Convenience and Safety: Healthcare is catching up with banking, retail, finance and holiday sectors by providing on-demand digital services with awareness rising that advice or treatments for many conditions can be quickly accessed online. Convenience is highly valued, with 86% of Boots Online Doctor patients accessing the service via smart phone.

6.    The Importance of Face-to-Face Options: Face-to-face interaction with a pharmacist is still very much valued by patients who access healthcare services online first. More than 78% of Boots Online Doctor patients collect treatments from their local Boots pharmacy and about 90% of people live within ten minutes of a Boots store. Boots Pharmacists can provide medicine and general healthcare advice and prove that human interaction is still a vital part of good health.

7.    A New Way: Attitudes to healthcare are changing and technological advances are opening new routes to healthcare. The strong message is that the ease, speed and convenience of accessing digital consultations, GP appointments and the comfort of getting advice for some conditions online are major influencers. Significantly, only 30% of respondents said they were ‘very likely’ to return to face-to-face appointments with GPs post-pandemic for treatments they can access for non-urgent conditions through digital healthcare.

8.    Enhancing Community Pharmacy’s Partnership with GPs: According to insights from The Boots Digital Healthcare Trends Report 2021, by 2026, all newly qualified pharmacists will be able to prescribe certain medicines. In the coming years, Boots hopes to have an Independent Prescriber in every store. The leading health and beauty retailer already has pharmacists trained in holistic pain management as well as Boots Macmillan Information Pharmacists across the UK who can support patients going through cancer treatment. 

Marc Donovan added: “Boots is in a great position to help re-shape healthcare for the better. We are providing access to primary care services and advice online as well as in our stores – building on our heritage to offer services for a modern world. The demand for accessible, convenient services accessed online first is here to stay.”

Over the summer, the health and beauty retailer launched the Boots Health Hub – a new, digital home for over 100 wide-ranging healthcare services. More recently, Boots launched Online Doctor services for 45 healthcare conditions – from acne to sexual health and family planning, alongside weight loss support and menopause treatments. The Boots Online Doctor services can provide quick access to advice and prescription-only medicine without having to see a GP through online consultations that can take as little as five minutes to complete.