Survey: Most Docs Optimistic that Digital Tech Will Reduce Provider Burden

March 16, 2018
Physicians widely agree that digital technology will contribute to population health, reduced burden on the health care system and lower costs, according to a recent survey.

About two thirds (66 percent) of physicians anticipate digital health technology will help reduce burden on the health care system and associated costs, according to a recent survey. What’s more, most physicians (64 percent) think digital health technology that captures patient-generated data will reduce the burden on doctors and nurses, specifically, which will have a positive impact on the critical issue of burnout.

These findings on physician views, combined with consumer views, about the potential of digital health technology come from an EY “Future of Health: Digital Health” survey, which polled 2,455 U.S. consumers, 152 physicians and 195 executives to understand how they think digital technologies will improve overall health.

Similar to their experience in the retail and transportation industries, consumers today expect their interaction with the health system to be supported by technology and are open to more digital interaction. And the survey results indicate that physicians also support the idea that the right technologies can improve patient outcomes.

More than 50 percent of consumers surveyed indicate a comfort level in contacting their physician digitally and have already begun utilizing available technologies to augment the relationship, the EY survey found. Sixty-three percent have used tech to track health- or exercise-related information daily or weekly in the past 12 months, with 60 percent indicating they would share this data if it would assist physicians in treating them. Twenty-five percent are currently going online to complete forms and schedule appointments.

“Consumers have a more holistic view of health, one that encompasses social, financial and mental well-being. Engagement with digital technology for health is gaining momentum, driven by a desire to improve wellness and underpinned by convenience. Technology is seen as one of the key enablers of seeing health as a lifelong journey,” the report states.

However, the survey also found that the human element is still very important to patients. Fifty-eight percent of consumers said they prefer to interact with their physicians in person, compared to only 7 percent who said they would be more comfortable interacting with their physician online.

The report authors note that, in the short term, technologies that seek to augment, rather than replace the physician/patient interaction, are a good foot in the door. “This is an easier sell to physicians, too, who already feel overburdened with tasks that they feel limit their chance to interact with patients and offer little value,” the report states.

The survey found that some consumers are interesting in utilizing other available technologies—33 percent of consumers said they would use smartphone-connected devices to send information to a physician and 36 percent said they would use an at-home diagnostic test kit and send the information to a physician. What’s more, 21 percent said they would use video consultations with medical professionals.

“This kind of demand paves the way for new entrants to offer direct-to-consumer solutions that fuse biology and tech – another indicator that health is on the cusp of convergence,” the report states.

The survey also found that physicians widely agree that digital technology will contribute to population health, reduced burden on the health care system and lower costs. Physicians see connected sensors that can provide regular biometric data and in-home genetic testing as a door to a broader understanding of their patients.

Physicians reported enthusiasm for using technology to improve patients’ experience and overall health—74 percent of physicians feel that patient portals, where users can manage appointments and refill prescriptions, will be beneficial and 68 percent believe at-home diagnostic testing will discover better outcomes. Most physicians also see the potential for smartphone apps that record health and fitness data, as 67 percent see these apps as delivering better outcomes.

Seventy-one percent of physicians also indicate that the use of personal sensor-based technology will have a positive impact. In fact, 83 percent of physicians said that consumer-generated data from phone apps and sensor devices could support care coordination across providers and enable more personalized care plans.

Perhaps most interestingly, two-thirds (66 percent) of physicians anticipate a reduced burden on the health care system and associated costs. And, as mentioned above, 64 percent of physicians think technology that captures consumer-generated data will reduce the burden on doctors and nurses specifically, which will have a positive impact on the critical issue of burnout.

The survey also found that incentives and levers are crucial to encourage more consumers to share health information digitally. Sharing data to improve convenience (wait times) trumps cost savings (61 percent to 55 percent). Sharing lifestyle information becomes more palatable (74 percent agree) if it is seen as a way to help physicians treat people more comprehensively. Curiosity is a powerful motivator; some would share dietary and exercise information if they could receive tailored information back, the survey findings indicate.

Overall, American consumers are open to sharing a range of health-related information with physicians, including medical history—but still report hesitation over sharing some types of data, the survey found. Forty percent of consumers are very or extremely interested in allowing health care professionals to access their medical history for treatment planning. This includes data on symptoms, medication, biometric data (e.g., blood sugar) and treatment history.

Fifty-four percent of consumers indicated they would share grocery-shopping habits, and most consumers (60 percent) indicated they would share tracked exercise and activity data. “This, again, suggests that consumers are hungry for a better experience and are empowered by emerging technology. This finding reinforces the need to rethink how and where care is delivered, and what constitutes a traditional health organization,” the report states.

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