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Healthcare Communications Survey: Technology Out of Step with Patient Preferences

November 12, 2015 By Molly White in

The Internet and digital telecommunications is touted as a means of providing better, lower-cost healthcare to Americans. But when it comes to communications technology, adoption is still quite low, according to a new survey conducted by Nielsen Strategic Health Perspectives for the Council of Accountable Physician Practices (CAPP) and Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC).

Finley clients may want to keep the survey results and use them as a technology conversation starter with healthcare clients.

Healthcare Communications Survey

Nielsen researchers surveyed more than 5,000 Americans 18 and over regarding their use of and attitudes toward the use of technology that provides access to, information about, and the ability to manage their medical care.

Researchers found that many Americans aren’t aware of digital healthcare services and tools that could be used to communicate with their doctors and medical service providers.

One in five respondents (21 percent) have access to doctors’ online appointment schedules, CAPP highlights in a blog post. Less than 2 in 10 (15 percent) use email to communicate with their medical services providers. Only 14 percent have 24×7 access to medical advice. And only 9 percent said they received appointment or other medical service reminders by text.

Just 3 percent said they were able to send a photo of a medical condition to doctors or service providers via email. And when it comes to Web video ¨visits,¨ only 2 percent said they have access to such a service.

Although availability of many healthcare communication services is quite low, that’s not because people aren’t interested in the services, researchers found.

For example, well over 3 in 10 respondents (36 percent) said they preferred and were interested in getting medical advice via telephone – even though just 14 percent said they had used such a tool.

Researchers also found substantial interest in other healthcare communications options. More than one third said they were interested in one-way engagement, such as online appointment scheduling and in online portals that provide access to test results.

Similarly, nearly 3 in 10 (28 percent) said they were interested in text reminders but only 9 percent said they had used them. One-quarter (26 percent) expressed interest in sending photos of conditions in advance of phone or email consultations, yet just 3 percent said they had used such tools.

Interest in advanced healthcare communications technology was highest among parents with children covered under their health plans, the chronically ill, patients with acute conditions and adults under the age of 35.

“These findings emphasize how few patients and providers are actually using the technologies that we use in most other aspects of our daily lives,” commented Janet Marchibroda, BPC director of Health Innovation. “A lack of appropriate incentives, as well as regulatory and legislative barriers have prevented many healthcare providers’ from implementing these technologies.

¨Yet as healthcare organizations are increasingly responsible for improving the health of large populations, they must rely more on efficient, technology-driven patient-physician relationships to achieve performance goals. That means society must create incentives that facilitate adoption of these tools and technologies.”

Jennifer Colamonico, chair of Nielsen Strategic Health Perspectives and VP of Healthcare Insights added that lack of awareness on the part of patients may explain low usage of electronic and digital healthcare communications services. ¨Consumers who expressed low interest levels in certain technologies may actually have limited awareness of available tools and the possible beneficial impact these applications may have,” she was quoted as saying.

“If consumers aren’t familiar with all the options, or cannot imagine how those options could enhance their healthcare experience, they place little value in such options. But consumer education can increase demand for and usage of these tools.”