How Public Perceptions Are Shaping the Future of Digital Health

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Digital health care may be all the rage, but is it making a difference in the lives of consumers? Newly released research from APCO Insight, a full-service public opinion research team, shows that digital health may not be as transformative as we think. 

Conducted in October 2015, Digital health tools are viewed positively, especially for having an impact on managing personal health and establishing efficient access to health providers. Tools tracking personal health metrics are viewed as having a great positive impact on personal healthcare.  However, currently, there is more of a focus on using digital health tools for efficiently accessing information about care than using them to improve or manage health.

APCO’s data shows that the current biggest use of digital tools resolves more around ease of access, including website portals to check lab results (58%) or fulfilling prescriptions online (58%). Pedometers and other wearable devices fall much lower in current use (35%), as well as online patient forums (20%) and virtual consultations with health care providers (19%).

Year to year, the use of tools for access of information, such as web portals for electronic medical records and online prescriptions, appears to be constant. However, there seems to be a drop, though smaller, in the use of tools for more active engagement, such as wearables to track personal health behavior, online forums where patients can interact with one another and virtual consultations where patients can engage with the physicians. It is too early to say whether this represents an ongoing trend, but it could suggest that there is a barrier to continued increase in digital health tools for more active health and disease management.

Interestingly, while there is an overall recognition that digital health tools have a positive effect on healthcare, there is no singular technology that is driving this effect. 

% Positive impact

Total

Health Care Providers

Opinion Leaders

Personal health tools/tracking

47%

51%

43%

Electronic Medical Records

37%

40%

34%

Medical devices

27%

28%

27%

Remote patient monitoring

25%

28%

23%

Wearables and biosensing

23%

26%

20%

Home health monitors

22%

19%

26%

Telemedicine

21%

23%

19%

Digital therapies

18%

21%

15%

Healthcare consumer engagement

18%

12%

25%

Robotic surgery

14%

14%

14%

Population health management

13%

14%

13%

Analytics and big data

11%

7%

15%

Unweighted n-size

143

43

100

Although there is a general recognition of digital’s role and benefit to the health care system, there is also an acknowledgement of potential risks, especially related to privacy of health information and cost of care.

% Negative Impact

TOTAL

HCPs

OLs

Privacy of health information

34%

35%

33%

Cost of health care

27%

33%

21%

Quality of health care services

19%

21%

17%

Access to qualified health care providers and services

14%

14%

14%

An individual’s ability to manage his/her own health

12%

9%

14%

Unweighted n-size

143

43

100

Despite digital health’s significant potential for transforming personal health behavior and health care in general, diminished use of tools and concern over ulterior affects, such as costs or privacy, highlight an important fact in that actual change may not happen easily. At the end of the day, digital health is a disruptive technology and health care is a siloed industry snared in a web of regulations that tend to slow adoption of change based on technology.

Unlocking the full potential of digital health will require a change in consumer and health care provider behavior. Digital health’s disruptive technology has great potential, but unlocking its potential will require efforts beyond just technology. Developing strategies for change, including new approaches to behavior change among both health care providers and consumers, could be an opportunity for new partnerships between leaders in the health care industry and the technology industry. 

Full finding from the survey is illustrated in the infographic shown below: 

How Public Perceptions Are Shaping the Future of Digital Health

 

  • Making a pie chart or bar graph of all those percentages would have made the data actionable knowledge, Jasmine.