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Is digital the right prescription for improving health?

Future of Health Survey: Digital Health

Consumers and physicians are looking for the right digital tools to improve interaction.

In early 2018, EY surveyed 2,455 US consumers, 152 physicians, and 195 executives to understand how they think digital technologies will improve our overall health. Similar to their experience in other industries, such as retail and transportation, consumers today expect their interaction with the health system to be supported by technology and are open to more digital interaction. Similarly, physicians show support for the idea that the right technologies can improve patient outcomes.

It’s clear from our findings that consumers and physicians alike are excited about the promise digital offers to positively transform doctor-patient interactions:

1. Consumers expect a modernized physician-patient interaction and are already comfortable utilizing digital technologies in health

More than 50% of consumers surveyed indicate a comfort level in contacting their physician digitally and have already begun utilizing available technologies to augment the relationship. Sixty-three percent have used tech to track health- or exercise-related information daily or weekly in the past 12 months, with 60% indicating they would share this data if it would assist physicians in treating them. Twenty-five percent are currently going online to complete forms and schedule appointments.

But consumers want more, and they expressed interest in utilizing other available technologies. Thirty-six percent are interested in utilizing at-home diagnostic kits (e.g., genotyping), 33% are interested in using smartphone-connected devices to send information to their physicians and 21% are interested in having video consultations with their physician. This kind of demand paves the way for new entrants to offer direct-to-consumer solutions that fuse biology and tech – another indicator that health is on the cusp of convergence.

2. Physicians widely agree that digital technology will contribute to population health, reduced burden on the health care system and lower costs

Physicians reported enthusiasm for using technology to improve patients’ experience and overall health. Seventy-four percent of physicians feel that patient portals, where users can manage appointments and refill prescriptions, will be beneficial. Seventy-one percent of physicians also indicate that the use of personal sensor-based technology will have a positive impact. In fact, 83% of physicians said that consumer-generated data from phone apps and sensor devices could support care coordination across providers and enable more personalized care plans.

Perhaps most interestingly, two-thirds (66%) of physicians anticipate a reduced burden on the health care system and associated costs. Going even further, 64% of physicians think technology that captures consumer-generated data will reduce the burden on doctors and nurses specifically, which will have a positive impact on the critical issue of burnout.

3. Americans are open to sharing a broad range of health data with physicians, but concerns are still present

Bolstering the finding that a majority of respondents are comfortable contacting their physician digitally, survey data also shows that consumers are willing to share other health-related data. Forty percent of consumers are very or extremely interested in allowing health care professionals to access their medical history for treatment planning. This includes data on symptoms, medication, biometric data (e.g., blood sugar) and treatment history.

Fifty-four percent of consumers indicated they would share grocery-shopping habits, and most consumers (60%) indicated they would share tracked exercise and activity data. This, again, suggests that consumers are hungry for a better experience and are empowered by emerging technology. This finding reinforces the need to rethink how and where care is delivered, and what constitutes a traditional health organization.

4. Health incentives matter

As we all know, incentives are crucial in getting people to adopt a new trend, and health consumers are no different. But surprisingly, cost may not always be the biggest motivator. Consumers indicated that reduced waiting times (61%) followed by cost savings (55%) provided the biggest incentive to increase digital engagement with their physicians. Even further, despite hesitation in sharing dietary and exercise information, 26% indicate that the ability to receive tailored diet and exercise plans would also encourage engagement with digital technology.

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of consumers surveyed indicating that they would be open to sharing lifestyle information if it would help physicians treat them more comprehensively. When combined with physician sentiment, the results show a promising path forward.


Download our report to read about how we are crossing the digital divide and the universal appeal of tech that supports physicians and patients.