- Patient engagement with different health technologies is increasingly high, as more patients are using tools to connect with the healthcare industry, according to the Deloitte 2018 Survey of US Health Care Consumers.
The survey, which included responses from 4,530 patient consumers, looked at how patients interact with the healthcare industry for the purposes of informing better patient engagement technology development.
On the whole, the researchers found that patients are interacting with the industry at new levels and in different ways that reflect increased use of health IT. Specifically, the report cited three areas where patient engagement in care are innovating: when patients search for care, when accessing new forms of care, and when sharing personal health information.
“Activating consumer engagement at these three touchpoints could be the key to improving patient outcomes and reducing health care costs,” said David Betts, principal and national leader for customer transformation in health care at Deloitte Consulting LLP. “We know that patients who are better informed about their condition and are involved in their treatment tend to have better health outcomes and typically incur lower costs.”
The way patients access healthcare reflects a no-fuss, no-frills preference, the report found. Fifty-percent of patients said finding in-network care was most important to them, followed by convenience, with 46 percent of patients reporting such.
Preference for convenience and in-network status took precedent over other factors, such as a doctor’s medical school affiliation, online provider reviews, use of technology for lab testing and reports, use of technology for appointment scheduling and bill pay, and use of telehealth.
In their search for a provider, patients also consider cost and quality, the survey found. In the last three years, the number of patients searching for cost transparency data increased from 14 percent to 27 percent.
And currently, 53 percent of patients are “likely” to look at quality data to compare are hospitals or clinics, although only 23 percent of respondents said they have actually done this.
The channels in which patients seek their treatment are also changing, the report noted. About one-third of respondents said they are interested in using digital tools, at-home testing, and other apps to enhance their care.
Those findings were especially salient for patients who report themselves in good or poor health; patients who self-reported as moderately healthy were less attracted to patient engagement technology.
Patients are also interested in using health technology to receive at-home care, the report noted.
Fifty-one percent of patients are comfortable using an at-home test for an infection before visiting their doctor. Thirty-five percent are interested in using a virtual care assistant to report symptoms and receive doctor recommendations. Thirty-one percent are interested in using apps to connect with 24/7 health coaches who specialize in nutrition, exercise, sleep, and stress management.
“As these tools and tests become more widespread, consumers will need actionable information, including advice from a physician,” Betts said. “Growing consumer interest should spur the development of more at-home tests and tools for many other diseases and health needs.”
The survey also revealed an upswing in the amount of patient-generated health data (PGHD) available, likely due to a surge of patients using different health technologies to monitor their health.
For example, the number of patients using digital health tools to track their health has increased significantly in the last five years, the report noted. In 2013, only 17 percent of patients used tools to track their fitness, compared to 42 percent of patients who currently do the same.
And patients are becoming more consistent about health IT use, the report continued. Of the patients who said they began using a wearable in the last year, 73 percent said they use the tool consistently.
Those trends point to an increase in the amount of PGHD available, which if used, can help providers better understand individual and population health.
More patients are willing to allow providers to use this PGHD. Sixty percent of all patients are willing to share their health data with their doctors; when looking at only chronically ill patients, that number increases to 66 percent.
Patients are also willing to share PGHD with research organizations (39 percent), device developers (40 percent), emergency services (53 percent), and family members (53 percent).
As noted above, patient trends toward data sharing could be good for the current population health movement. PGHD allows providers to understand patient health in between clinic or hospital visits, giving a completer and more accurate picture of patient wellbeing.
These findings can have implications for health IT developers as they try to build tools that will improve patient engagement, the report noted.
“To increase consumer engagement, organizations should provide easy-to-use platforms, high-quality care through these newer channels, and security and privacy of health and personal information,” the report stated.
Specifically, developers must consider tools that are flexible and meet ever-changing patient needs, as well as tools that are interoperable and can be used by patient, caregiver, and care team.