Why Patients Embracing Health IT is a Good Thing

Health practitioners have plenty to deal with now and in the coming year, too many things to list here including changes to Meaningful Use and other federal regulation, technology changes and even how they continue to engage with patients, obviously.

However, healthcare consumers, as Rock Health points out, have historically been one step removed from the industry, and, in some cases, are considered passive stakeholders. But that is changing. Patients are increasingly in the driver’s seat of their own health with the rise in technology and the evolution of the Internet the direct connection to health is ever growing.

The industry continues to be shaken up by technology as is evident from Rock Health’s second annual 4,000-person nationally-representative survey, which is full of insights. “We deploy this survey each year to better understand consumer sentiment and adoption of digital health, reveal consumer attitudes toward health privacy and trust, and gauge overall consumer behavior,” the report writers point out.

The following insights are eye opening and shouldn’t be dismissed by healthcare’s elite. Patients are becoming empowered and should no longer be taken for granted. For example, consumers adopted digital health tools at a record rate over the last 12 months – 46 percent of consumers are now considered active digital health adopters, having used three or more categories of digital health tools up from 19 percent in 2015. Only 12 percent of Americans are non-adopters.

Along with this, consumers seem more willing to pay with 39 percent of consumers strongly agreeing that they are willing to pay for health expenses out of pocket. On the same note, a majority of Americans want access to their health record, and 20 percent have asked for or downloaded a copy in the last six months of 2016. Then, once access is gained, people are not interested in keeping the data to themselves with 77 percent are interested in sharing their health information, especially to get better care from their doctor.

More than 85 percent say that they should be in control of who has access to their health data, and that they should be told what health data is collected about them.

For those tracking their health. Most do so mentally with 54 percent of people who track weight and 58 percent of people who track medications do so in their heads. Of those tracking their health, the most common metrics recorded using an app are physical activity (44 percent) and heart rate (31 percent).

At least some of these folks are still listening to their doctors. About 35 percent of those asked who downloaded a health app did so because the app was recommended by their doctor, and nearly a quarter of Americans own a wearable, up from 12 percent in 2015. Seventy-five percent of wearable owners purchased the wearable for themselves, 22 percent received the wearable as a gift, and fewer than 2 percent received the device from their employer.

For this population, a majority of wearable owners made the purchase to “become more physically active”; other reasons include to lose weight, get better sleep, and better manage stress.

Moving onto another emerging trend, telemedicine, patients are buying into the idea of the technology. As such, video-based telemedicine adoption more than tripled from 7 percent in 2015 to 22 percent in 2016, with the majority of uses occurring in the last three months, and 30 percent of telemedicine visits are self-pay, compared to visits covered by insurance (11 percent) and employers (10 percent). The most popular telemedicine medium is telephone, followed by email. Live video is considered best, though and satisfaction for use of all type of telemedicine is at 75 percent.

Because of this, more than 25 percent of consumers said they plan to use live video to receive medical care or electronically send a picture or video to their healthcare provider in the future and usage of telemedicine is highest amongst the 25 to 34 age bracket across all mediums.

These are simply some of the highlights received from feedback by actual patients, but doesn’t end there. Patient are still enamored with Google for receiving health information, and the digital health explosion doesn’t just fit for digital natives, but is being embraced by all ages. And for those with poor health? Access for them is extremely important, go figure.

Given these figures, it’s obvious that patients will only become more involved in their care in the future. Probably time to stop treating them as a passive actors.

Scott Rupp's picture

Scott Rupp


Scott E. Rupp is a writer and an award-winning journalist focused on healthcare technology. He has worked as a public relations executive for a major electronic health record/practice management vendor, and he currently manages his own agency, millerrupp. In addition to writing for a variety of publications, Scott also offers his insights on healthcare technology and its leaders on his site, Electronic Health Reporter.

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