Patient Data Access News

What Do Patients, Consumers Want in Digital Health Tools?

Ninety-two percent of patients said improving consumer experience should be a top goal when deploying digital health tools.

digital health tools consumer

Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- As patients continue to assume the role of healthcare consumer, healthcare providers and payers are beginning to leverage healthcare technology that helps connect patients to their care. Those innovations, when utilized correctly, help drive an overall better consumer experience, according to a recent Black Book survey.

The survey of nearly 650 healthcare consumers – 40 percent of whom self-identified as a younger healthcare consumer – found that the digital consumer experience is of high priority. Ninety-two percent of respondents said improving consumer experience should be a top priority for healthcare organizations, up from 71 percent of respondents who said the same in last year’s consumer survey.

Patients largely have high expectations for the health IT offerings from their providers, the survey revealed.

Ninety-three percent of patients expect to use digital tools that facilitate patient-provider interactions. Eighty-five percent said the same about virtual care access, 97 percent about online scheduling, 92 percent about online payment tools, and 94 percent about online price transparency tools.

But expectations do not always meet reality, the survey showed.

"Despite healthcare becoming more digital and available to consumers, provider organizations still have far to go when it comes to embedding new consumer-centric technology," said Doug Brown, Founder of Black Book.

Per a Black Book survey from Q4 of 2017, only about 9 percent of providers said they have the ability to offer all of the tools patients expect out of them.

This could mean bad news for healthcare providers who lack sophisticated patient engagement suites as patient retention and loyalty come into question. The survey showed that 90 percent of patients feel no obligation to stay with a provider who does not offer a satisfactory digital experience.

Eighty-eight percent of patients under age 40 said they will choose their next provider based on the provider’s online presence.

It could be difficult for providers to obtain the tools patients reportedly want, Black Book said. About three-quarters of all new healthcare products have failed to create inroads in the healthcare space, likely because of lack of relevance, lack of distinction, inappropriate pricing, and poor messaging and marketing.

“The ultimate judgment of new health IT products falls to consumers and providers, who, ironically, are often absent from the development process,” said Brown. “That development stage stands the greatest chance of generating transformative ideas early on before the brand has made a significant investment.”

Overall, patients are looking for digital health tools that make their interactions with the healthcare system easier and more convenient, the survey revealed. A total of 83 percent of respondents agreed that all providers should offer tools that enhance digital scheduling, online bill pay, patient-provider interaction, and patient-reported outcomes.

The survey also asked patients to rate digital health tools just emerging on the market. Ratings hinged on perceived patient need, likelihood to improve the healthcare experience, innovation, and immediate value to patients.

Those rankings yielded a list of 19 digital health products that show promise in the consumer health space. Most of those products centered on online bill pay, patient-provider communication, digital prescription filling, and virtual health and telehealth services.

In addition to providing insights about patients’ digital health needs, this survey underscored the importance of consulting with patients during digital health development.

Much of digital health is patient-facing. Between patient portals, self-management apps, and other administrative tools, patients are key end users. As such, developers and other stakeholders must ensure they consult the patient voice during technology creation.

Integrating the patient voice into healthcare as a key strategy for improving the patient experience. There are few ways developers and provider experts will be able to assess patient need without asking the patient.


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