New consumer engagement preference offers health systems the opportunity to make digital, not the PCP, the new front door.

My new invisible friend is my digital health tracker–prompting, reminding and giving me badges for exercise, hydration, and healthy eating and sleep patterns. Always by my side, it is my first line health resource–closer than a personal doctor. I’m not alone.

Primary care physicians (PCP) are no longer the automatic first consumer health touchpoint. Digital devices, self-service tools and urgent care represent new go-to engagement channels. Since the patient-PCP relationship is no longer the linchpin for loyalty, health systems have a new avenue to engage consumers and build their brands.

A portion of consumers are now willing to form attachments with providers differently, relying instead on self-service tools and digital devices. Our research shows that this happens across all age groups, though more so with younger consumers. Nearly half (43 percent) of millennials have no PCP. More than a third rely more on devices than doctors to manage their health. This generation is the future of healthcare and health systems would be wise to open a digital front door.

For effectively reaching the largest generations (millennials and Gen Xers), self-service tools and digital devices are the new path to connection. Some providers may view this as a passing fad; smart providers will see an opportunity–and seize it.

Urgent care’s growth as a preferred channel provides health systems with a new bridge to consumer loyalty. The good news: Providers don’t have to spend so much on building out a primary care network. Forming alliances and partnerships offer a means to rightsize and save money instead.

Bridging directly to consumers, away from the historical tradition of relying on PCPs, is crucial. Even for up to 18 percent of Baby Boomers, PCPs are not the first line of care. Remember that invisible friend I mentioned? Imagine health systems integrating consumer devices into their services in a way that’s both branded and convenient. The digital device and app trackers can be connected to caregivers who are alerted when special attention may be needed.

For health systems, a new race to engage the digitally inclined with or over the PCP model is on. The sooner a health system integrates digitally enabled services and care delivery in non-traditional settings into its services, the better chance it has to engage all ages and types of customers.

Linda MacCracken

Principal Director – Consulting, Health, North America

Subscribe to Accenture's Insight Driven Health Blog Subscribe to Accenture's Insight Driven Health Blog