How will advances in technology put the consumer at the center of health care?

Consumers and physicians we surveyed anticipate a clear shift to digital health. Learn how they feel about tech-enabled change.

In mid-2018, EY surveyed 530 physicians and more than 6,000 consumers in Australia, England and the Netherlands to get a deeper appreciation of consumer and physician use of, and sentiment toward, digital health technologies. Of interest were consumer and physician perceptions about current health system performance and future expectations regarding tech-enabled system change.

We explore the findings in two new comprehensive global reports, How will tech-enabled change play out in health care in the next decade? (pdf) and Consumers edging toward impatience: consumer appetite for digitally driven care is rising. We also provide in-depth analysis of country findings in How will advances in technology put the consumer at the center of health care? reports for Australia (pdf), England and the Netherlands (pdf).

Physicians and consumers give health systems a mixed report card

Overall, in the three countries surveyed health systems are moderately well-regarded, but universally considered to lag in introducing digital health technologies. In total, physicians were more favorable with 57% rating overall system performance as “excellent” and “very good,” compared with 45% of consumers. However, opinion diverges markedly between physicians and consumers and between the countries.

An experience perception gap is evident between physicians and consumers
  • Physicians in the Netherlands (71%) and Australia (62%) view their health system’s performance far more favorably than do consumers (Netherlands 39%; Australia 42%), giving a favorable report card of “excellent” and “very good.”
  • In England, the reverse is evident. Consumers (55%) are more positively inclined and assign a positive rating of “excellent” and “very good,” compared with physicians (40%).
Chart: Overall performance rate

Satisfaction with elements of the health system also varies widely. Many consider that their health system performs well in critical areas such as access to care and being up-to-date with the latest treatments and innovations. In an era of concern over personal information security, health systems’ performance in protecting identity and personal information is rated highly by more than half (57%) of physicians in all three locations, and by Australian and English consumers. In all domains of performance, consumers in the Netherlands are more reserved in their judgement. Across the board, there is considered to be room for improvement in customer service orientation, public health education and getting the right balance between care delivery channels.

Chart: Ratings of health system performance

Consumers are interested in tech-enabled care

A leading edge of digitally engaged consumers in Australia, England and, to a lesser extent, the Netherlands are open to personalized medicines, predictive genetic testing and high-tech smart pills. Non-urgent care either through on-demand e-visits or in retail locations appeals, but use of robotics for treatment and virtual hospitals are rejected by many, especially consumers in the Netherlands. Interestingly, all of the technologies we put forward for consideration by respondents are currently in use in health systems today. Many, however, are at an early stage of maturity and diffusion through health systems. As consumers begin to experience the benefits of such technologies and alternate care models in their lives, we expect to see rising levels of appreciation and interest.

Table: Consumers willing to

In the next decade, digital health technologies will become commonplace

Both physicians and consumers see technologies that systematize care delivery systems and processes such as artificial intelligence (AI), case management and care delivery pathways becoming part of everyday care. The management of clinical conditions such as chronic, complex diseases will likely be underpinned by digital technologies that enable remote teams to care for people in their homes. Clinically oriented technologies such as AI-assisted diagnostics, imaging analysis and medication management, and precision medicine are expected to become part of the core business of medicine. Physicians in particular anticipate that new and non-traditional players will enter the health industry, bringing profoundly different ways of approaching the delivery of health and care.

Virtual services are not a highly anticipated innovation. And yet, around one-quarter and one-third of both physicians and consumers see virtual presence technologies (physicians 38%, consumers 36%) or virtual hospitals (physicians 25%, consumers 36%) being likely in the near future. These new care models may seem to be just alittle too far over the horizon. However, they are already in play (for example, Mercy Virtual Care Center and Intermountain Health’s Connect Care Pro). Capabilities in scaling and diffusing radically different care models likely holds future opportunity for both industry players and those looking to enter the industry.

Table: What do you believe will occur in the next decade

In the next decade, key stakeholders (physicians and consumers) expect the health care systems in the three countries surveyed to change markedly through the adoption of transformative technologies. These lay the foundations for radically different approaches to managing lifelong health, care and well-being. While in-person consultations and hospitals will always play a vital role in any health system, digital and mobile technologies support re-envisioning health care way beyond episodic, acute and facility-based care. In the future state, individuals will access care regardless of geography through teleconnected services, and the core business of health and care will be anchored around digitally enabled models of care.

Chart: Top 3 changes in the next decade

Therein lies the challenge: to close the gap between the health systems of today and what is expected in the near future. For health care businesses and government bodies, this means weighing where and when to shift focus, investments and the balance from capital and facility intensive systems to a digitally driven ecosystem. The pivot point is where high expectations meet up with high-tech to transition to a health system that is information rich, patient-centered, intelligent and connected.


In the next 10 years, physicians and consumers expect that their health systems will be very different from today. Over a relatively short period, the core business of health will be anchored around digitally enabled models of care, including virtual delivery and interactive person-centered tools. Health businesses without a game plan to incorporate tech-enabled highly personalized care will be found wanting as a maturing consumerism and transformative digital technologies align to create a powerful force for change.

Learn more in our full comprehensive reports, How will tech-enabled change play out in health care in the next decade? (pdf) and Consumers edging toward impatience: consumer appetite for digitally driven care is rising. Read our in-depth analysis of country findings in our How will advances in technology put the consumer at the center of health care? reports for Australia (pdf)England and the Netherlands (pdf).

About this article

By Aloha McBride

EY Global Health Leader

Passionate about the delivery of safe, high-quality healthcare at a reasonable price. Innovator. Dog mom.

Related topics Health Digital Innovation