Alternative care sites help build trust by connecting consumers to diverse care teams
From our research on rebuilding trust in health care, we know that trust deficits are still a major barrier for people seeking care.6 Consumer and community trust in health care providers and organizations is critical for optimal health, as trust influences patients’ willingness to get medical care, preventive screenings, and mental health care.7 Trust between a patient and a health care provider also is linked to improved patient experience, health outcomes, and the patient’s perception of the care they receive.8 However, it is also well documented that not all communities in the United States have the same level of trust with their health care providers. A critical area of focus for health equity—the fair and just opportunity for every individual to achieve their full potential in all aspects of health and well-being—is therefore rebuilding trust with racially and ethnically diverse communities.
We found in our 2021 focus groups that:
- Two out of three participants who identify as Black and half of Asian and Hispanic participants would prefer to see a health care provider who is similar to them, either in race/ethnic background or lived experience.
- For Asian (59%) and Hispanic (53%) participants, having a provider who is empathetic and culturally competent is a top priority when choosing a provider.
- About half of the participants are willing to trade access to convenient, in-person care for a virtual visit with a provider who looks like them and is culturally competent. About half of those who identify as Hispanic (54%) and Black (49%) are willing to use virtual visits, as are 41% of Asian participants.
Alternative care sites—if staffed with diverse and empathic care teams—could be opportunities for health care organizations to connect with their consumers and rebuild trust. One step to rebuilding trust is employing clinicians and care teams who look like, have shared experiences, and demonstrate empathy toward the communities they serve. Consumers most often look for providers that empathize, understand, connect, and care for their well-being. Yet many report that they aren’t connecting with their health care provider or aren’t seeking care at all because they can’t connect, have experienced racism, and/or have been subjected to unconscious and implicit bias.
Alternative sites of care could improve access to mental health services
Mental health is a core component of health and wellness, yet it is not available or easily accessible for many who need treatment. Demand for mental treatment continues to rise, particularly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a recent study of psychologists, respondents reported increased demand compared to prior to the pandemic, and the increase continued to grow from 2020 to 2021.9 In addition, many with mental illness are not accessing treatment. Consider, nearly 50 million adults in the United States experienced some form of mental illness in 2022, yet more than half of them received no treatment for their conditions.10
For consumers seeking mental health services, some of the biggest barriers are accessing care and being connected to effective therapists. Access to mental health providers is uneven across the United States, with 37% of the country living in a mental health provider shortage area, which are areas with one or fewer mental health professionals per 30,000 residents.11 Two-thirds of those shortages occur in rural or partially rural areas.
The Deloitte 2022 Survey of US Health Care Consumers found that alternative care sites could serve as a bridge that connects consumers—particularly young and racially and ethnically diverse populations—with the appropriate mental health care. We found that young consumers are more willing than their older counterparts to consider using alternative care sites for the mental health needs. In fact, half of Gen Z (50%) and Gen X (47%) and 61% of millennials would consider going to retail clinics, more than 60% of these generations would consider going to community health centers, and about 70% would consider virtual visits (figure 3). In contrast, just about half of baby boomers would choose virtual therapy services and 30% would use retail clinics.