For years, the internet and digital technologies have shaped the way consumers research information regarding healthcare. In 2016, we saw much more healthcare consumers become active digital health adopters. With the emergence of trends like seniors leading the medical wearable technology market or healthcare providers partnering with rideshare services, we can only expect digital health tools to grow in popularity.
As a physician, what are the digital health trends that might affect the way you are able to care for your patients? Rock Health’s 2016 Consumer Healthcare Survey provides insight into consumer digital health behavior. Here are 7 major digital health trends that physicians should pay attention to – you might just understand your patients a little better.
1. Record Rates of Digital Health Adoption
This year, consumers started using digital health tools at a record rate. In fact, 46 percent of consumers are considered active digital health adopters, using three or more categories of digital health. This may include the utilization of telemedicine, wearables, apps and more. In 2015, only about 19 percent of Americans were considered active health adopters.
For physicians, this means that perhaps there is an opportunity for you to connect with your patients on a digital level. What sorts of apps or digital health tools are your patients using? Furthermore, how can you help them leverage these tools to help manage their care? With only about 12 percent of American not adopting tech health tools, it is much more likely that your average patient is using some sort of telehealth tools. Ask them.
2. Year of the Wearable
In 2015, there was only about 12 percent of Americans that owned a wearable. This year, that number jumped to nearly a quarter of United States residents. The most popular brands for medical wearables are Samsung, Fitbit, and Apple. You probably even use a wearable to monitor your heart rate or steps during the day. Use these types of digital health tools to create a conversation with your patients about how they are using them. Help your patients determine the best ways to use their wearables to monitor their care.
3. Doctor’s Order
Physicians and other healthcare personnel are more trusted than the government or tech companies when it comes to digital health tools. About one-third of healthcare consumers downloaded a health app because their doctor suggested it.
For a long time, consumers in healthcare have felt taken advantage of by the system and the government. They have an attitude that nurses and doctors are also taken advantage of, and that is why these consumers will put their trust in physicians. Use this trust to encourage your patients to use health apps or tools that will help them manage their healthcare.
4. The Growth of Telemedicine
Telemedicine is a growing popular practice that uses telecommunication technology to deliver therapy or health services. While telemedicine can be delivered via email, text messaging, over a phone call, or over an app, using video seems to yield the highest patient satisfaction rate of 92 percent. Overall, telemedicine platforms all have a high level of satisfaction among users.
Does your healthcare system provide telemedicine or telehealth opportunities? When digital health technologies can be reimbursed like traditional healthcare procedures, we will see a surge in adoption of these technologies. This might be a great way to keep in touch with your patients who don’t need to stop in for an office visit to manage their care.
5. Paging Dr. Google
One growing trend among healthcare consumers is using the internet, and mostly Google, to find out information regarding healthcare providers, health conditions, and prescription drugs. Patients want to be informed and actively participate in their healthcare planning. While many WebMD diagnoses (we know you doctors just love that) will be wrong, physicians should be happy about this.
Your patients are looking to actually help you out. Now I know that after years and year of medical schooling, the last thing you need is the opinion of a patient, but their opinion matters. Your patients may ask you for specific treatments or to discontinue prescriptions because of the information they gain online. Help your patients by providing them with quality online sources they can use to find information.
And cut your patients a break – a couple of seasons of House M.D., and some searches on WebMD might have any of use believing we are doctors.
As we continue to see the adoption and popularity of health technology, you can prepare yourself by learning how your patients are using their digital health tools. For a long time, healthcare consumers have felt like a pawn in the healthcare industry. Health technologies finally give them the tools to actually have an active role managing their healthcare.