Digital solutions can help healthcare providers focus on these five value drivers in 2019.
As the healthcare industry prepares to transition into 2019, more and more healthcare providers are turning to digital solutions to offer greater value to patients. These health technology developments include telemedicine, wearables, and digital apps that allow for health tracking and self-diagnosis, which all foretell a general push toward increased patient centricity in the near future.
In fact, a national consumer study from Rock Health has identified five primary value drivers for today’s healthcare consumers, which healthcare providers should focus on while integrating technology into their current offerings. Healthcare providers that don’t deliver on one — or more — of these value propositions likely won’t be able to compete in 2019, making it all the more important that providers are aware of these five digital healthcare trends – and consumer value drivers.
1. Empowering Patients
Modern patients want to manage their own health through increasingly self-directed, digital offerings. It’s fitting that there has been a clear upward trend of patients seeking to take control of their healthcare via digital tools like wearables. The percentage of survey respondents adopting at least one digital health tool increased from 80% in 2015 to 87% in 2017, and this healthcare trend doesn’t show signs of slowing down soon.
That being said, certain subgroups appeared more ready than others to integrate digital solutions into their current self-tracking routine. Patients with chronic conditions, in particular, seemed especially hesitant to begin using digital tools, although respondents who tracked health goals via digital apps and wearables consistently reported making progress on or otherwise achieving health goals.
Moving forward, physicians and healthcare providers should work with their patients to encourage digital solutions, as they have been shown to make a tangible impact on patient health.
2. Democratizing Information
Patients want to be able to easily access the information that they need to successfully navigate the healthcare system and make informed choices about the right medications, procedures, and physicians for them. 80% of consumers use the internet to search for healthcare information online, and while most search for a specific health problem or procedure, 21% have searched a particular doctor or hospital.
According to the Rock Health survey, 58% of respondents have searched for an online review of a provider, and a significant portion of those patients (ranging from 27% to 40%) report taking action based on customer reviews online. This means that it’s important for healthcare providers to be aware of their online reviews, but it also means that patients are actively seeking out healthcare information online, making it easier than ever to reach them via search and social advertising.
3. Enabling Health Data Ownership
The Rock Health survey showed that patients desire increased ownership over their data, but this “ownership” may manifest itself in a number of ways. First, patients want greater control in how their health data is shared and handled. While 86% of respondents feel comfortable sharing their health data with their physician, only 58% feel confident that their data is safe in the hands of a health insurance company. Even fewer trust pharmacies, research institutions, government organizations, or tech companies. The primary factor in patients’ comfort level is their perceptions about that entity’s data security.
Secondly, patients want easy access to their own medical records, and they wish for self-tracked information to be easily shareable with their physician and other entities. Some patient subgroups are already actively tracking their own health information, especially those tracking diet or physical exercise. 56% of respondents tracking physical activity are already using an app to do so, and for these patients, easy integration with medical records could provide greater autonomy and more information for their doctors.
4. Improving Access to Care
Modern patients want to be able to access care when and where they need it. Unfortunately, regulations have not quite caught up to the available technology yet, so healthcare providers are still waiting to see telehealth solutions approved and widely adopted. Once these technologies are adopted, they promise to significantly increase healthcare accessibility as well as the number of patients that a healthcare provider can reasonably serve.
Telemedicine could especially help to reach older patients, who may have limited mobility and find it difficult to make it to an in-person doctor’s appointment. This demographic is the slowest to adopt digital health technologies, but they have been shown to seek out healthcare information online. Over 60% of senior citizens are active internet users, and health searches are the primary reason why they go online, so while healthcare providers wait for telemedicine to take off, reaching this demographic via digital ads is a good solution.
5. Lowering Costs
As health insurance deductibles continue to rise, patients want the healthcare market to compete on price so that they can choose from affordable options. However, while patients frequently report that they want lowered healthcare costs and the ability to “shop” their healthcare, they’ve been proven not to seek out lower-cost options. Healthcare providers should thus take the initiative to reach out to consumers with search and social ads rather than wait for consumers to find low-cost options on their own.
Lowering costs applies to digital technologies as well; over a quarter of respondents that own a wearable device reporting that they’ve discontinued its use, negating many cost-efficiency benefits. Companies must figure out how to encourage long-term use. This will likely have to begin with sorting out usability issues, especially for older patients.