The COVID-19 pandemic hastened digital transformation for both the health care industry and for individuals — as health consumers, patients, caregivers, and health citizens.

Two new reports from Accenture update our understanding of the changed health consumer in the context of both “home: and the health care ecosystem. These reports are Accenture’s annual Digital Health Technology Vision 2020, and an analysis of the firm’s Wave 7 of consumer research, answering the question, How will COVID-19 change the consumer?

The 2020 tech vision for health is summarized here, tying to Accenture’s previous two years of forecasts. This year, the five pillars include:

  • The “I” in Experience
  • AI and Me
  • The Dilemma of Smart Things
  • Robots in the Wild, and,
  • Innovation DNA.

Note how the top line of the 2020 forecast “networks” into the 2019 trends.

My focus on health consumers compelled me to dig into the “I in Experience” trend, which focuses on meaningful personalization underpinned by an artful combination of transparency and design that’s bolstered by technology: in particular, augmented reality (AR) and 5G communication networks.

Accenture recommends that health care payers and providers redesign digital experiences that “amplify personal agency,” empowering consumers ability to access services on their own terms and tastes, as well as control personal information.

That information control is a major issue for 70% of health care consumers, “concerned about data privacy and commercial tracking associated with ‘my’ online activities, behaviors, location and interests,” Accenture’s survey learned.

Consumers, especially people managing multiple conditions, want digital tools that enable self-care; at the same time, transparency and control about how one’s data is used are also table stakes for addressing The “I” in Experience.

In the Dilemma of Smart Things, Accenture calls out “designing for trust” as a key issue. As the Internet of Healthy and Medical Things permeate patients’ homes and provider settings, baking privacy- and security-by-design into these “things” will be another behavior that organizations must adopt to build trust with customers — both consumers/patients and collaborating organizations.

On the Consumer Goods & Services part of Accenture comes their latest wave (7) of research into people continue to be shaped by their experience in the age of the coronavirus. While this study targets the consumer goods industry, there is much for health care to glean from the findings.

Most visibly here was the finding that people want to be healthy, happy and safe — with COVID-19 intensifying those personal goals. Two-thirds of global consumers said they are likely to continue living with more than one healthy habit, such as staying active and exercising (1 in 2 people), spending more time on self-care and mental well-being (1 in 2), continuing to wash hands (79%), and boosting immunity (59% shopping more health consciously).

“The past several months have been an emotional rollercoaster. There is despair. There is hope,” Accenture’s consumer report observes. “A return to normality should not be the goal for those looking to emerge stronger. This is the time to focus on the possibilities the future holds,” the report ends.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:  These last sentences of Accenture’s COVID-19 consumer report are particularly germane to the health care consumer highlighted in Accenture’s digital health tech vision elements that speak to the individual, that “I” in experience.

In the pandemic, we’re coming to appreciate that mental and financial health are integral to overall health and wellness beyond our understanding of this inter-relationship in our pre-coronavirus lives. There is desperation, and there is hope to re-imagine and re-build a health care system and, indeed, a larger ecosystem that bolsters health for all as we look beyond the pandemic and toward 2021.

It’s mid-August as I write this, which means that in a few weeks, organizations will be putting strategic plans together for 2021. We know that people (consumers, patients, caregivers all) have learned more about their health values during the pandemic, for themselves as individuals, their families, their neighborhoods and communities, and nations’ public health. What we can learn from Accenture’s digital health tech vision for 2020 merges well with the consumer behavior data, knowing that the home has become the hub for most people, a next-normal for COVID-19 era consumers.