Interest in Technology-Enabled Care Grows, But Concerns about Quality, Data Security Remain, Study Finds

Sept. 6, 2016
Consumers are open to technology-enabled healthcare, such as remote patient monitoring and telemedicine, but continue to have strong concerns about the quality of care and the security of their healthcare data, according to a recent consumer survey-based study.

Consumers are open to technology-enabled healthcare, such as using remote patient monitoring tools and telemedicine, but continue to have strong concerns about the quality of care and the security of their healthcare data, according to a recent consumer survey-based study.

The 2016 Survey of U.S. Health Care Consumers study by Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, the research division of Deloitte Life Sciences and Health Care practice, polled 3,700 Americans in February and March 2016 about their current use of technology as well as their expectations, preferences, and concerns around technologies, including re­mote monitoring (the IoT), telemedicine, and ro­bots and drones, that can deliver health care ser­vices outside of traditional care settings.

Consumers have an appetite for using technology-enabled care, according to the study findings. Seven in ten respondents are likely to use at least one of the tech­nologies presented in the survey. The study examined consumers’ use of technology for health and fitness purposes compared to other uses, such as financial planning, tax filling, mobile banking and shopping. Overall, while use of technology for health and fitness purpose is growing, it’s still lagging behind other uses. Eighty-six percent of consumers use technology for shopping and 72 percent use it for mobile banking compared to only 32 percent of respondents who use it for measuring health and fitness goals.

The health appli­cation with the greatest usage (actually exceeding tax filing and financial planning) was refilling prescriptions, which 58 percent of Rx users reported doing. Looking at other healthcare technology uses, the study findings indicated that 31 percent of respondents pay a medical bill online and 24 percent use a technology-enabled platform to monitor health issues, such as blood pressure. Only 18 percent of respondents use an online cost-tracking tool provided by their insurance companies to check the cost of care and even fewer, 17 percent, receive alerts as reminders to take medications. In addition, only 15 percent measure, record or transmit data about medication they are taking or other treatment information.

As part of the survey, respondents were specifically asked about technology-enabled home care in 15 scenarios cov­ering different types of technology and applications—telemedicine, remote patient monitoring/ sensors (IoT), and drones/robotic. Respondents were asked about reasonable cost and any concerns that technology developers, providers, or plans offering the technology should address.

Researchers found that telemedicine, in which half the respon­dents show interest, is the most popular technology. Respondents are most interested in using it for post-surgical care and chronic disease monitoring, (49 percent and 48 percent, respectively,) according to the study findings. Only 32 percent of respondents expressed interest in using telemedicine for a minor injury.

And, particular subgroups are especially keen on various technologies presented in the study, espe­cially in those who have chronic diseases, Mil­lennials using telemedicine, and seniors using remote monitoring, the study authors stated.

A number of factors are driving an increased willingness and interest among patients and caregivers to use IoT devices, including a growing aging population, high prevalence of obesity and chronic diseases like diabetes and increasing demand for caregivers. In addition, consumers are showing a preference to age at home as opposed to moving into a facility and value-based care models also are driving providers to adopt technologies to help improve their patients’ health outcomes.

More respondents in the 2016 survey reported going online for health-related purposes than in 2015, with the biggest jumps related to measuring fitness and health improvement, which grew from 28 percent to 32 percent, and for receiv­ing alerts to take medication, which grew from 13 percent to 17 percent.

And, the study authors content that caregivers are a key population for technology-enabled care. More consum­ers say they are likely to use sensor technology (the IoT) when caring for others rather than for themselves. And, the survey results indicated that experienced caregivers are more likely to use telemedicine and remote monitoring technology than non-caregivers.

In addition, 40 percent of respondents say they would likely approve of sensor use for location tracking and fall detec­tion if they were caring for someone else.

The study also found that heavier users of the healthcare system show the most interest in all technologies. “Across the board, consumers with chronic condi­tions are the most interested in using technolo­gy-enabled care. Those reporting a major impact from their condition report even greater inter­est. Among generations, seniors show the high­est interest in using sensors but lower interest in telemedicine,” the study authors wrote.

When examining respondents’ viewpoints on the cost of these technologies, for the consumers who expressed interest in us­ing remote patient monitoring, a majority said that in­surers should pay for it. “Only two out of ten said they’d be willing to pay out of pocket, while the rest said they would use monitoring only if the sessions were covered by their health insurance policy/plan with a small co-pay,” the study authors wrote.

And, of the 20 percent surveyed who were willing to pay out of pocket, when asked, “How much?,” consum­ers on average say that $58 is a reasonable cost for a monthly subscription for remote patient monitor­ing. This amount varies by generation, according to the study.

As with remote monitoring, a majority of consumers surveyed (80 percent) who are interested in using telemedicine think that insurance should pay for it. Of the 20 percent willing to pay out of pocket, they indicated, on average, that $70 is a reasonable cost for a telemedicine session. This varies by generation, with the youngest willing to pay the most.

The survey findings also indicate that seniors and baby boomers are more likely to use sensors than younger generations, however younger generations are willing to pay more out of pocket for remote patient monitoring than older generations, up to $100 for a one-time fee.

Looking at consumers concerns with regard to these technologies, the respondents indicated that they demand high-quality, person­alized care, and they also want assurance that their personal information will be safe. About a third of respondents expressed concern about the security of their information or that their personal health information might be misused. Four in ten think that care quality could be lower than if they saw a provider in person (43 percent for telemedicine, 35 percent for remote patient monitoring), the study findings indicated.

In conclusion, the study authors outlined a number of implications for healthcare stakeholders regarding developing and employing technology-based healthcare. Stakeholders developing and adopting these technologies need to earn patients and caregivers’ trust. “Quality of care and protection of personal information can be essen­tial for adoption,” the study authors wrote. And, stakeholders should consider developing risk mitigation strat­egies that take into account possible uses and misuses of personal information.

Provider should make care delivery more patient-centric and include the caregivers. The study authors suggest that vendors should target caregivers as well as patients for adop­tion, and work to coordinate care via integrated platforms. “And potentially toughest of all: To win customer buy-in, the user experience—for caregiv­ers, patients, insurers, and everyone else—will likely need to be as seamless as possible,” the study authors wrote.

“Create a seamless user experience. Tools likely need to provide an end-to-end experience. For example, if a tool helps patients obtain and track prescriptions but doesn’t allow them to re­fill medication, many would rather not use that tool at all,” the authors wrote. “And, give consumers what they want. Consum­ers have clear preferences for which health care services they are interested in using telemedi­cine and remote patient monitoring.”

“For ex­ample, there is more interest in chronic disease monitoring than for acute care in telemedicine. Retailers, providers, and plans should con­sider aligning their offerings where the interest is highest,” the study authors concluded.

The study also highlighted a number of technologies employed by providers today, including edible smart pills and smart pillboxes for medication adherence and a mobile prescription therapy technology for diabetes patients that is an app with an integrated a blood glucose monitor for self-management.

Looking ahead at the use of drones and robotics in healthcare, four in ten respondents indicated an interest in using drones for medication assistance and robots for disease diagnosis assistance.

According to the study authors, within the next several decades, researchers hope to introduce drones and robots capable of assisting older indi­viduals with health risks who want to stay in their homes as long as possible. “Some potential applica­tions include household cleaning, retrieving medi­cation from another room, and other tasks that could reduce the risk of falls in older adults who live alone. Although drones hold great promise for health care, monitoring, and medical product trans­port, care applications remain mostly hypothetical,” the study authors wrote.

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