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What Do Consumers Say About Digital Health?

Posted by Michael Greiwe, MD | February 14, 2019 |
Michael Greiwe, MD

The influx of digital products in healthcare is a rapidly growing industry predicted to expand beyond $24 billion by 2025. Some of the latest innovations have included:

  • The digital pill, which has a small edible sensor, embedded in the medication that tracks compliance by pinging the clinical provider when the patient has consumed it.
  • Smart contact lenses with built-in biosensors that can detect blood sugar levels from tears, to help diabetics and their doctors proactively adjust medications and improve outcomes.
  • A new flexible digital sensor the size of a stamp that sticks to the body and continually monitors blood pressure without invasive equipment.

The rapid increase in the use of telehealth is another positive indicator that digital technologies in healthcare is on the upswing. While most clinicians are in varying stages of acclimation to our new and increasingly digital workflows, what are patients saying about the new ways technology is impacting their care?

Accenture Study on Patients and Digital Health

“According to Accenture research, healthcare consumers continue to show strong use of digital technology for self-service care – and the numbers are rising each year.”
Accenture 2018 Consumer Survey on Digital Health

Last year Accenture released a study on patient attitudes toward digital health. They found that not only are consumers plugged into technology on their smartphone, they also make extensive use of wearable devices to track their healthcare outcomes. The study noted, that in 2018, 75% of U.S. consumers in their study say they rely on this technology to manage and improve their health. The survey stated:

Patients are increasingly open to intelligent technologies taking on elements of their care, such as medical consultations and monitoring. And they are using self-service digital health tools that go beyond websites.

Prior studies showed patients are interested in technologies such as telehealth. But the Accenture study took it one step further by suggesting healthcare consumers are even more intrigued than their doctors by these tools. According to the study, our patients seem to want cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence playing an increasing role in their healthcare. Doctors, it seems, just aren’t as excited by all this change.

However, if it’s true that healthcare providers are lagging behind consumer interest in digital tools, this increasingly points to the well-digitized practice as one that may have a competitive edge in the marketplace.

Wearable Devices – the Tip of the Digital Iceberg?

Our patients are increasingly willing to wear digital devices to track their health. From Fitbits to remote monitoring, our patents use Internet of Things (IoT) wearable technologies to monitor their vital signs, fitness, and lifestyle. The Accenture study showed:

  • The use of wearable devices has more than tripled since 2014.
  • Almost one-half of all consumers are using mobile or tablet applications; in 2014 the number was just 16%.
  • 90% of patients are willing to share their wearable data with doctors, nurses, or other clinical professionals.
  • 72% are willing to share the data with insurance payers.

Remote monitoring tools are growing increasingly popular, and the outcomes show these devices are helpful in reducing inpatient admissions, thereby reducing healthcare costs.

The Accenture study also showed a rise in the number of consumers that felt comfortable seeing a doctor via the virtual visit.

Accenture Says Patients Want Telehealth

“Healthcare consumers are more open to using intelligent technologies, sharing data and allowing a combination of man and machine to power a new model of healthcare.”

Accenture 2018 Consumer Survey on Digital Health

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The study noted that about one-quarter of patents have received a telehealth visit. While patient satisfaction scores consistently rank high after a telehealth encounter, the Accenture survey ranked virtual care as a satisfying experience for 74% of the patients that used the service. One-half of the healthcare consumers surveyed said when faced with a delayed in-person appointment, they’d take the telehealth visit every time. Other metrics included:

  • Three-quarters of healthcare consumers would use telehealth for an after-hours appointment.
  • Two-thirds would use telemedicine for a follow-up appointment after a traditional in-person visit.

Consumers say that wearable devices, remote monitoring tools, and the virtual telehealth visit have clear benefits, including:

  • 75% say that digital devices can help doctors better understand their health condition.
  • 69% say these tools improve their overall quality of care.
  • 73% say digital technology helps them engage in their own healthcare in partnership with their clinical provider.
  • 69% say that digital devices and virtual health improve doctor/patient communication.

Digital healthcare tools engage consumers and let them receive care on their own terms. Patients seeking a virtual visit say it would be useful for:

  • An after-hours clinical visit (73%).
  • To receive education on a specific disease, such as diabetes (71%).
  • Discuss a specific health concern with their healthcare provider (62%).
  • Receive home care after hospitalization (62%).
  • To receive mental health counseling (52%).
  • For a non-urgent consultation (57%).

These statistics show that consumer perception of digital healthcare products is very positive. What do these study results imply for the physician reluctant to embrace digital technologies in their practice?

Conclusions for the Future of Digital Healthcare

“Patients are increasingly sophisticated in their use of healthcare technology, and increasingly open to intelligent technologies taking on elements of their care, such as medical consultations and monitoring.”
Accenture 2018 Consumer Survey on Digital Health

It is increasingly clear that most forward-thinking healthcare providers will adapt to the use of digital technologies to improve patient care. The future of healthcare lies within the use of these tools to improve access to care, cut costs, and save lives. With healthcare costs projected to rise exponentially over the next decade, with skilled labor shortages, and with the aging baby boomer population putting increasing strain on our system of care, technology holds the promise to fix what’s breaking in our healthcare paradigm.

Doctors that lag behind consumer demand for the improved efficiencies and convenience of these digital tools will run the risk of losing patients to more sophisticated clinical providers.

The future of your healthcare practice is as close as your smartphone. OrthoLive has developed a clinical telehealth tool designed specifically for the orthopedic specialty practice. It is an affordable tool that brings consumer-facing technology to your clinical practice. Contact the team at OrthoLive for a consultation about how to apply digital technologies to engage patients, cut costs, and expand your service line.

Topics: Patient, "telehealth", "telemedicine", Accenture, digital health

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