Mismatch between doctors and consumers on digital healthcare

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

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  • Patients are hungry for health-tech, are interested in virtual care
  • Consumers willing to share information with their doctors

Patients are hungry for health-tech, especially virtual visits and remote monitoring to save time and money, the EY report How do you care for today while building the health of tomorrow? shows.

But the bulk of technologies that doctors are implementing are focused on reducing their administrative burden, diagnostic support, or to communicate with other medical professionals. They don’t improve access for consumers or assist people in proactively managing their health.

“Digital healthcare and the efficiencies it can create must be a priority to ensure all Australians are able to access the healthcare they need,” EY Oceania Health Leader Jenny Parker said.

The report reveals close to 20% of doctors use tools to support virtual visits, remote monitoring and patient engagement tools such as apps. Meanwhile, almost half of consumers surveyed (49%) say they want to engage with doctors virtually to save time and money.

“The structure of our current payment system is a major roadblock in the uptake of digital technologies. Medicare rebates need to extend to all virtual visits, not just people in remote areas,” Ms Parker said.

The EY report found that in the absence of accessible healthcare technology, many Australians are turning to the internet, potentially at the expense of their own health. In the past 12 months, over half of Australians (55%) have researched an illness, injury or health problem online, with over a third (38%) using internet search to source information on what medical condition they might have.

An overwhelming number of consumers indicated they would be willing to share information on dietary and nutrition intake (73%), lifestyle choices such as smoking and drug use (73%), and exercise patterns (58%) if it meant receiving better healthcare.

“This data shows that people would proactively manage their well-being in conjunction with their doctors if the digital tools were in place to facilitate this. Consumers want digital healthcare options. But doctors are not yet equipped to meet this demand and the system doesn’t encourage them to introduce consumer focused tools,” Ms Parker said.

The EY report shows over a third (36%) of Australians would be willing to be treated via on-demand e-visits for common acute symptoms, such as colds, flus, rashes, etc. instead of in-person visits. Fifty-one percent of doctors acknowledge that video consults would produce better and more efficient patient outcomes.

Doctors were also quick to acknowledge the productivity gains of virtual visits with two in five admitting that managing patients virtually in real-time would increase productivity. However, 76% of doctors have no plans to introduce technologies that would enable virtual visits. Funding and payment systems in Australia fuel this reluctance.

“The findings of the EY research show that patients now view themselves as consumers and they expect healthcare to deliver what they have in other areas of their lives — connectivity, mobility, agility, immediacy,” Ms Parker said.

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Notes to Editors

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