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Telehealth 2019: What Do Patients Want?

Posted by Michael Greiwe, MD | December 22, 2018 |
Michael Greiwe, MD

Healthcare leadership has come a long way forward in their embrace of digital technology. Certainly, we can blame the start of our sometimes-reluctant embrace of the cloud on the HITECH Act. But each year since we have increasingly focused on digital solutions to provide better value while cutting costs.

Even a decade ago, we weren’t as concerned about interoperability, security, data warehousing, and bring your own device (BYOD) policies in our hospitals and ambulatory clinics. Now, an increasing number of healthcare providers offer or are planning to offer digital service lines or tools in the form of telemedicine, wearables and remote monitoring tools, self-service web portals and clinic-based kiosks, and a host of new apps.

What’s driving these trends are the patients themselves, who increasingly look at consumer reviews of doctors online, use the Internet to self-diagnose, and ask clinics when they’ll offer a virtual visit so they don’t have to drive to an office.

A new study from Rock Health recently looked at the relationship between consumers of healthcare services and digital technologies like telehealth. What they found provides us with some insights into what technology we should focus on in 2019 to ensure our practices won’t fall behind.

Five Primary Value Drivers of Technology Services in Healthcare

“Innovators must deliver on one or more of these consumer-centric value drivers to ensure adoption and succeed in the digital health market.”
Rock Health

Rock Health conducted their third-annual survey of 4,000 healthcare consumers across the United States. Their goal is to determine how and why consumers are engaging with healthcare technology.

The study found that consumers are in transition with clear trends indicated they are increasingly seeking control of their healthcare by using digital tools such as telemedicine, wearable devices, and online clinical provider reviews. The study found that 87% of Americans use at least one digital health tool and that the majority was very happy with their use of these devices – and planning to use them more often.

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This year’s survey sought to outline five key value metrics that healthcare providers should consider before deploying new technology. They included:

  • The digital technology should empower patients.
    The survey found that patients want control over their healthcare information and decision-making. They prefer self-service digital offerings like wearable devices or other remote monitoring technologies. The percentage of patients using the Internet and digital Internet of Things (IoT) devices to manage their health climbed by 7% from the prior year. The survey also indicated that patients that use these tools make better progress toward their healthcare goals than those that do not. The study concluded by saying healthcare providers should work closely with patients to introduce and encourage digital solutions such as telehealth in order to improve healthcare outcomes.
  • The technology should allow patients to easily access information.
    The survey showed that 80% of consumers use the Internet to search for healthcare information, whether it is information on a specific disease or a review of their doctor. 58% of survey participants used the web to search for online reviews of a clinic, hospital, or provider. Significantly, the study indicated that consumers based their choice of provider on these reviews. The report shared that patients want doctors to communicate with them online in a more collaborative and democratic approach toward healthcare decision-making.
  • The software should allow patients the feeling that they own their data.
    Increasingly, patients want to feel as if they are in control of the healthcare process, including their own data. The majority of participants said they felt comfortable with their doctor accessing their healthcare information but felt less certain it was safe in the hands of their insurance companies. Even less trusted government organizations, research institutions, or pharmacies to keep their data safe. Healthcare providers should continue their work to not only manage perceptions that patient data is secure – but also work in 2019 to make sure that it really is secure.

    The survey also found that 56% of the respondents are tracking diet and physical exercise on an app and want that data interoperable and easily shared with their physicians.
  • The technology should also improve access to care in a significant way.
    Rock Health found that the majority of survey respondents wanted more access to telehealth offerings as a way to increase on-demand healthcare. Consumers expressed frustration with long wait times both for appointments and while waiting to see a provider. The survey suggested that telehealth increases access, both for patients living in rural communities and for those too sick with chronic conditions to travel to a doctor.

    Rock Health suggested providers could learn three things from these trends:
    --First, clinicians can extend treatment and provide a great customer experience with telehealth.
    --Second, the data shows that telehealth can work to continue a long-term patient relationship that benefits both consumer and doctor.
    --Third, companies and organizations just offering telehealth with no on-site option should consider that their approach might have some limitations.
  • The digital tool should help lower costs.
    The survey noted consumer worries regarding the increasing cost of insurance, high-deductibles, and other out-of-pocket expenses. Patients would prefer healthcare providers have price competitiveness and they want the ability to shop providers based on transparent service and price offerings. The study found, however, that even though consumers say they want these benefits, they often fail to question providers about healthcare costs. Healthcare providers offering lower cost visits via telehealth or other services should proactively market these services in order to attract more patients.

Telehealth Offers Consumers Value

Telehealth offers consumers exactly what the survey showed they are looking for, from increased accessibility to lower costs. The technology literally puts healthcare into the hands of the consumer, by using digital tools they leverage every day, including the smartphone and tablet.

OrthoLive is standing by to help your practice provide a telehealth orthopedic offering designed specifically for your service line. We offer consumers what they want at a price that doctors can afford. Talk to us today about our secure, easy-to-use, HIPAA-compliant telemedicine subscription service.

Topics: Patient, "telehealth", "telemedicine", e-health, digital trends, technology, physician

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