A survey of 1,000 physicians and physician “extenders” has found that caregivers see the potential of digital technology to transform healthcare despite barriers in data sharing, privacy, security, workflows and payment.

According to the survey of primary care physicians, specialists, nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants, as well as members of the board of the eHealth Initiative, providers are cautiously embracing digital health technology in order to “bridge time and distance between clinicians and consumers.”

Among the findings of the survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute:

*79 percent of physicians believe the use of mobile devices can help clinicians better coordinate care.

*Half of physicians say that digital visits, or e-visits, could replace more than 10 percent of in-office patient visits.

*About 42 percent of physicians are at least somewhat comfortable relying on at-home test results to prescribe medication.

*Roughly two-thirds of physicians say they would be willing to prescribe an app to help patients manage a chronic disease such as diabetes.

In addition, 81 percent of physicians agree that mobile devices help caregivers work together more effectively to coordinate a patient’s care. Nonetheless, 35 percent of doctors still do not perform any activities on a mobile device, and few perform higher-impact activities, such as monitoring hospitalized patients.

When it comes to electronic health records, PwC’s Health Research Institute says that while EHRs are “transformative in their own right” they “have not turned out to be a panacea for coordinating care or engaging patients more fully in their healthcare,” with privacy and security concerns often stalling efforts to share patient data outside the practice and hindering innovative technologies that can enable more efficient care. Only one-third of clinicians agree that EHRs have helped them see more patients. And, just 40 percent agree that EHRs have improved their relationships with patients.

“While EHRs have come a long way during the past five years—many now act as central data repositories for clinical and genomics data, information exchanges with other EHRs, and tools for performing basic analytics—industry professionals agree that they cannot stand alone,” states HRI. “A large opportunity exists for integrating EHRs with other databases and devices, such as those used for customer relationship management, billing, research and development, and mobile health and analytics. Acting in concert, these tools can give caregivers a more complete portrait of patient care.”

Telehealth is also an area where the adoption and integration of digital technology with existing healthcare processes has not yet fulfilled its potential to transform care and value for patients, according to HRI. Only 15 percent of clinicians report that they currently offer telehealth services to patients with chronic conditions. Though another 28 percent indicate that they are considering such services, only half of physicians who are conducting e-visits are getting paid for at least some of them. Another barrier to telehealth adoption cited by HRI is the limited ability of physicians to work across state lines.

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