Electronic Health Records

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mHealth, Patient Portal Boom Increases Patient Engagement

By Sara Heath

Personal health devices and online health resources are a booming enterprise with the potential to increase patient engagement. According to a recent survey conducted by Deloitte, practices who invest in health technology may see those benefits among a variety of health consumers.

The study, which examined trends amongst healthcare consumers and patients, shows that mobile technology in healthcare is growing as an increasing number of patients adopt various health apps and devices. Specifically, technology use is trending with regard to patient engagement with the care provider, the use of online resources, and reliance on technology in everyday life.

According to Deloitte, an increasing number of patients are being more proactive about engaging with their physicians. The survey shows that 48 percent of respondents prefer to actively engage with physicians. Furthermore, 34 percent of respondents believe that physicians should encourage patients to learn about their healthcare needs and ask them questions regarding treatment plans and other care-related issues. Treatment costs are also of vital concern for respondents, with over half of them stating they believe physicians should be transparent about treatment costs.

Consumers are also utilizing online resources more frequently to learn more about their care and treatment options. The survey reports that 52 percent of respondents research the Internet for care-related information, with Millennials, individuals with higher incomes, and individuals covered by public health exchanges composing a majority of that population.

The likelihood for consumers to utilize the Internet to research physicians, care facilities, and health plans is also increasing. According to the study, a reported 25 percent of respondents used the internet to research physicians in 2015. This is an increase from 2013 where only 19 percent of respondents reported using Internet scorecards to research care.

Additionally, patient use of electronically stored health information is on the rise. The survey reports that nearly 22 percent of respondents accessed electronic health data in 2015, while only 13 percent did in 2013.

The Deloitte survey shows that consumers use online health resources for more than researching care options; according to the survey, use of technology in consumers’ everyday lives is also on the rise. Between 2013 and 2015, the use of health and fitness apps has grown from 17 to 28 percent, with nearly 45 percent of Millennials utilizing the technology. Furthermore, over 60 percent of those who use health technology regularly have said it impacts their daily behaviors. Despite that, only 40 percent of technology users share the health and fitness data collected in apps with their physicians.

The survey shows that consumers with chronic disease and those who regularly use prescription medications are also using mHealth and personal health devices at an increasing rate. Those with chronic illnesses who reported using remote monitoring systems grew from 22 to 39 percent between 2013 and 2015, while the number of Millennials who regularly use electronic alert reminders for prescriptions rose from 14 to 29 percent within that same time period.

The survey also identified three groups who were more likely to increasingly engage with personal health devices and online health resources. According to Deloitte, those who are sicker and have more healthcare needs, those who are younger, and those with higher incomes may be more likely to utilize healthcare IT.

Deloitte states that due to the reported differences between consumer populations, it will take various strategies to continue to increase consumer engagement. “One strategy will  not fit all,” the organization maintains.

“Some consumers are not yet aware of resources that already exist, while others are ready for tools that have not been developed yet. Some may be interested, but find the quality and usefulness of available resources lacking,” the study’s authors wrote. “Also, consumers’ level of engagement will likely wax and wane as their health circumstances change.”

By providing engagement strategies based on the unique patterns of multiple kinds of consumers, the health IT industry may see a further increase in technology use. This is particularly notable considering the push for value-based care, patient engagement, and a collaborative patient experience. Providing technology options for patients will help healthcare professionals stay competitive in the transforming industry.

“Delivering a superior customer experience cost-effectively may be key to remaining competitive in an industry that is sharpening its focus on value,” the authors wrote.

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