Are Medical Practices Ready for the Latest Digital Health Initiatives?

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A recent survey shows that only 11 percent of healthcare IT decision-makers are considered early adopters of digital health technologies.

Digital and mobile technologies are rapidly advancing, and have the potential to help healthcare providers increase convenience, decrease overhead costs, and improve patient outcomes. Yet, despite these areas of opportunity, many medical practices are not prepared to implement the level of digital health services many consumers have come to expect.

A recent study conducted by HIMSS Media surveyed 220 healthcare IT decision-makers and influencers about their organizations’ plans to implement digital technologies. The study found that only 11 percent of the respondents qualified as early adopters of digital health technologies, though an additional 25 percent of the respondents had taken steps in the right direction. The remaining respondents were lagging behind when it came to digital preparedness.

These findings reveal that most hospitals and medical practices are not ready to fully embrace digital and mobile health tools. However, because these technologies provide significant benefits for patients and healthcare providers alike, it’s important for healthcare organizations to make a concerted effort to overcome whatever implementation challenges are holding them back and get on board with the digital health revolution.

The Benefits of Early Adoption

While incorporating digital technology into existing healthcare workflows has been a relatively slow process, early adopters have experienced promising results. According to the HIMSS study, 87 percent of early adopters have seen reduced costs and 83 percent have enjoyed improved efficiencies. Healthcare providers have also found that digital technologies tend to enhance the patient experience, with 82 percent of early adopters reporting greater patient satisfaction and 78 percent reporting improved clinical outcomes.

What’s more, organizations that lag behind when it comes to adopting digital health tools may find that their patients will start to look elsewhere for healthcare. Consumers are increasingly shopping for care that is convenient, affordable, and personalized, and if their current providers do not meet these needs, they are likely to pursue other options.

Enhancing Digital Preparedness

In light of all the benefits of digital and mobile health tools, why have so many hospitals and medical practices been so slow to implement them? For one, digital tools often require a significant upfront investment, and some providers may simply be unable to afford the price of innovation. Other organizations may be overwhelmed by the countless options at their disposal, and unsure of which solutions will align best with their needs.

Other barriers to digital health adoption include the challenges of integrating legacy systems with new technologies and finding IT experts with the requisite skills to deploy and maintain these tools. Further, some healthcare organizations have encountered physician resistance to learning about and integrating new solutions. Finally, many IT decision-makers are concerned about their ability to maintain the privacy of patient data with these tools.

These challenges can make implementing digital health initiatives a daunting proposition. However, when deployed in tandem with the right strategies and resources, digital and mobile health tools can function as a powerful addition — not a disruption — to existing clinician workflows. To ease their way into digital transformation, hospitals and medical practices can begin by investing in tools that have proven benefits such as patient wearables, telehealth services, and electronic health records.

But ultimately, to realize the full potential of these technologies, healthcare organizations need to focus on building scalable, sustainable tech infrastructures. If they do so successfully, providers will likely see increases in both patient recruitment and retention. In the meantime, however, hospitals and medical practices can leverage digital marketing tools like paid search and social media advertising as a way to reach new audiences.

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