- Patients are becoming more welcoming of technology integrated into the healthcare encounter, showing that patient preferences are leaning less toward human interaction and more toward convenient care, according to Accenture’s 2018 Consumer Survey on Digital Health.
The survey of 2,300 adult patients showed that three-quarters of patients need technology to help manage their own health. This is up from the 2016 report, which showed that 73 percent of patients use technology to manage their own health.
What’s more, patient preferences for health technology are evolving to include newer and more innovative tools.
“In some areas, such as patient portals, healthcare providers are keeping pace with demand,” the survey authors noted. “But when it comes to virtual care, robotics and artificial intelligence (AI), consumer interest is surpassing what providers currently offer.”
One-quarter of patients are seeking virtual care visits, up from 22 percent of patients in 2016. More patients are also taking part in remote monitoring, up to 14 percent in 2018 from 9 percent in 2016.
Seventy-three percent of patients want to use virtual care for after-hours appointments, while 65 percent of patients said they would use virtual care for follow-up appointments in place of in-person doctor’s visits.
Virtual care tends to yield high patient satisfaction rates, with 74 percent of patients reporting a positive experience with their virtual care. Forty-seven percent of patients said they prefer a more immediate, virtual care encounter than having to wait for an encounter that is in person.
Fifty-four percent of patients said reduced medical costs is a primary benefit of virtual care, while 49 percent said better accommodating patient schedules was a virtual care benefit. Forty-three percent of patients said virtual care offers more timely treatment options.
In contrast, patients noted care quality and patient engagement as in-person appointment benefits.
Patients are also excited by the opportunities of artificial intelligence in healthcare, the report showed. Nineteen percent of patients have used health tools powered by AI, and more patients are willing to adopt technologies in the future.
Healthcare consumers say they are likely to use home blood test devices (66 percent), intelligent virtual health assistants (61 percent) and virtual nurses that monitor their health condition, medications and vital signs at home (55 percent).
Patients like that AI is available on command, saves time, and processes health information relevant to the specific patient. However, some patients still like visiting the doctor, don’t know how to use AI, or don’t like to share their health data using technology.
Patients, while recognizing that human interaction in healthcare has its benefits, also see a place for machines, especially in surgery. Before even learning about robot-assisted surgery, one in three patients were receptive to the idea. That number increased to 54 percent after patients were educated about robot-assisted surgery.
“Driven by experiences outside of healthcare, consumers increasingly expect to use digital technologies to control when, where and how they receive care services,” said Kaveh Safavi, MD, JD, Accenture’s global health lead. “By harnessing digital technologies in this way, healthcare will increasingly tap digital technologies to empower human judgement, free up clinician time and personalize care services to put control in the patients’ hands.”
Although the report noted great excited around emerging health technologies such as virtual visits and AI, they are still using more traditional patient engagement technologies such as EHR patient portals, mHealth tools, and online resources.
Health websites are still the most common technology patients use to manage their own health, with over half of patients reporting such. But uptake has remained stagnant since 2016, whereas patient adoption of other technologies has grown.
Forty-six percent of patients said they use mobile tools in 2018, up from 36 percent in 2016. Patients are also using EHRs, social media, smart scales, and online communities at higher rates than they did in 2016.
Three-quarters of patients say wearable tools are helpful because they improve patient understanding of health and engagement them in their health. Sixty-nine percent of patients say wearable tools help improve the overall quality of care and boosts patient-provider communication.
Just as more patients are using innovative digital health tools, more are willing to share the data gleaned from these devices. Ninety percent of patients are willing to share their health data with their physicians, and 88 percent are willing to share with nurses or other healthcare professionals.
Seventy-two percent of patients are willing to share their health data with their health payers, a notable jump from the 63 percent of patients reporting such in the 2016 survey.
These increases may stem from increased technology adoption, according to Safavi.
“The more accustomed healthcare consumers become to using wearables and other smart technologies, the more open they are to sharing the personal health data these tools collect,” Safavi explained.
As noted above, patient EHR use is up from 2016, with 44 percent of patients having viewed their EHRs. Thirty-six percent of patients said they want to stay better informed about their care and 19 percent said they were simply curious about the EHR.
Patients’ preferred EHR functions include viewing lab results (67 percent), accessing clinician notes (55 percent), and viewing prescription and medication history (41 percent).