Patient interest in digital health services is strong as practices work to evaluate new tools

By MGMA staff members
June 29, 2017
Body of Knowledge Domain(s): Patient-Centered Care

With patient interest in tech-centric health services increasing, medical practice leaders are evaluating what tools to invest in to enhance the care delivery process. But adoption of these tools has been slow, with many healthcare professionals reporting the practices they turn to for their own personal care do not yet offer digital health services such as telemedicine, remote monitoring, consumer health wearables or mobile apps.

A June 27 MGMA Stat poll found that 74% of respondents said their personal doctors do not offer digital health services, with only 18% reporting that their doctors do offer them. Another 8% said they were unsure about whether their doctors offer digital health services.

Of respondents whose personal physicians did not offer digital health services, almost half (49%) said they would use them if made available, while only 24% of those respondents said they would not.

Among respondents whose personal physicians do offer digital health services, one-third (33%) said their primary care provider offered some form of digital health tool. Another 25% said they have providers from multiple specialties offer digital health services.

These results illustrate a growing patient demand that many healthcare organizations are trying to meet with new digital health tools. Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends 2017 report cites a growing number of consumers using digital health tools such as telemedicine, health-related mobile apps and remote-monitoring devices. In 2016, 88% of respondents to a December 2016 Rock Health Digital Health Consumer Adoption survey said they use at least one digital health tool, up from 80% in 2015. Additionally, the number of respondents in the Rock Health survey using three or more digital health tools jumped from 19% in 2015 to 46% in 2016.

Rock Health’s consumer survey also pointed to the adoption of digital health tools not being solely a generational phenomenon associated with younger patients. While millennial (18- to 34-year-old) and Generation X (35- to 54-year-old) consumers reported higher levels of adoption for wearables, finding a physician online or using online reviews for selecting a provider, baby boomers (ages 55 and older) outpaced both sets of younger generations in terms of seeking remote medical care or advice, reporting 56% versus 42% for millennials and 31% for Gen X patients.

While these new data sources from digital health services are prompting many medical practices to review opportunities to incorporate these data into their clinical workflow, challenges remain. As part of their evaluation process, practice leaders are asking questions such as: (i) can our clinicians rely on the voracity of the data collected; (ii) can we seamlessly incorporate these external data sources into our EHR; (iii) what additional costs will the practice incur by adopting these digital health services; (iv) what are the state medical licensure issues related to our use of telemedicine services; (v) are there medical malpractice implications to relying on external sources of health information. As evidence that many organizations remain in the evaluation stage, the June 13 MGMA Stat poll found that 81% of respondents were not using data from patients’ consumer health wearables.

The July 2017 MGMA Education Spotlight on health information technology includes multiple resources on topics related to digital health services for practice leaders looking to implement new tools while keeping costs manageable.MGMA members also can find other resources on digital health service evaluation and similar topics in the MGMA Member Community.

The June 27 MGMA Stat poll had 1,387 applicable responses out of 1,400 total responses.

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