Consumers are ready to use healthcare technology

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Physicians might be skittish about embracing cutting-edge forms of digital health but consumers are open to the use of healthcare technology in a way that providers would be wise not to ignore.

That’s the finding of a new 2016 online survey of 3,751 U.S. adults by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. The results show that consumers of all demographics are at least agreeable to the idea of technology-enabled home care.

When asked about 15 scenarios covering different types of technology and applications, including telemedicine (four), remote patient monitoring/sensors (six), and drones/robotics (five), seven out of 10 consumers said they were inclined to use at least one of the technologies.

Among other results, the survey revealed that:

  • Telemedicine, in which half of respondents showed interest, is the most popular technology. Consumers are most interested in using it for post-surgical care (49 percent) and for monitoring chronic conditions (48 percent).
  • 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.
  • Drones and robotics are emerging technologies. 40 percent of consumers are interested in using drones to help with self-care, including medication assistance, for a chronic disease. Interest is equally as high in having robots assist doctors in diagnosing a condition. Yet, fewer are interested in using robots to diagnose in the absence of a doctor (32 percent) or, for caregivers, to monitor others (35 percent).
  • Caregivers are a key population. More consumers say they are likely to use sensor technology when caring for others than on themselves. Caregivers are also more likely to use telemedicine and remote monitoring technology than are non-caregivers.

“One of the most interesting findings was around the use of technology by caregivers,” says Harry Greenspun, MD, managing director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.

In the survey, consumers who reported interest in using remote patient monitoring had the strongest interest in using it for caregiving (38 percent) rather than for self-care. And, 40 percent of respondents said they would likely approve of sensor use for the survey’s two caregiver scenarios (location tracking and fall detection).

While healthcare technology shows potential promise, consumer use of technologies for health and fitness purposes still lags applications for other purposes such as shopping, banking and filing taxes.

“Those industries had a head start,” remarks Greenspun. “They have been much more focused on the needs of consumers. It’s only recently that healthcare is beginning to treat people like consumers as opposed to treating them like patients.”

Also See: Consumer Experience with Health Apps Mixed, Finds Survey

However, the good news is that in the survey the health application with the greatest usage—surpassing tax filing and financial planning—was the refilling prescriptions (58 percent). In addition, more consumers indicated that they go online for health-related purposes in this year’s survey compared to 2015.

The biggest increase among those consumers surveyed was in the area of measuring fitness and health improvement which grew from 28 percent to 32 percent, followed by receiving alerts to take medication which grew from 13 percent to 17 percent.

Nonetheless, about a third of respondents expressed concern about the security of their information or that it might be misused. Further, four in 10 consumers indicated that care quality could be lower than if they saw a provider in person (43 percent for telemedicine, 35 percent for remote patient monitoring).

“Privacy and security remain one of the biggest barriers,” concludes Greenspun. “Not only the privacy and security of the information but also trust.”

As a result, he notes that Deloitte recommends earning consumers’ trust on quality of care and personal information, which is essential for adoption.

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