- 62% of respondents report increase in the use of digital technologies and data solutions
- 61% report that digital and data solutions have been effective in improving patient outcomes since the outbreak of the pandemic
- Barriers to continued technology adoption remain, including funding and IT interoperability
Health and human services (HHS) professionals around the world believe that the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the health care profession forward when it comes to the use of data and technology, according to a new survey from EY and Imperial College London’s Institute for Global Health Innovation, Embracing Digital: is COVID-19 the catalyst for lasting change?
Based on a survey of more than 2,000 global HHS professionals in six countries, the findings show that the rollout of solutions such as video consultations and patient portals have been a success, with 64% of respondents reporting they have been effective in improving the productivity of staff and 61% reporting an increase in positive outcomes for patients as a result of these solutions being introduced.
These successes have helped to overcome some pre-pandemic issues around implementation, such as practitioner concerns relating to increased administration and over-reliance on data, indicated in 40% of responses. However, barriers to further adoption remain and will require action across the sector. Notably, many remain uncertain about the future adoption of technological advancements in the sector, with 36% indicating they are not sure if there will be investment in digital technologies and data over the next three years.
George Atalla, EY Global Government and Infrastructure Leader, says:
“The response to the global COVID-19 pandemic has shown that data and technology can make a real difference to the work of health and human services professionals, who have worked tirelessly and heroically in the face of this dreadful disease. Technological barriers that once seemed insurmountable were quickly overcome, as nations mobilized to respond and support the most vulnerable. The lessons learned during the pandemic must lead to continued investments in a technology-focused health care.”
Tech success story
While health organizations have historically often lagged behind other sectors in terms of adopting digital technologies and data solutions, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has driven a change in priorities. Almost two-thirds of respondents (62%) report an increase in the use of data and technology solutions, as the industry adapts to new ways of working under pressure.
Phone and video consultations have seen the greatest uptake across all tech solutions, with phone consultations being offered by 81% of HHS organizations (up from 39% before the pandemic) and video consultations available from 71% of organizations (up from 22% before the pandemic). The use of patient support tools – from online self-assessment (rising to 49% from 23%) to chronic disease management tools (up from 26% to 47%) and patient portals (up from 34% to 59%) – have also increased dramatically.
As these tools continue to have a positive impact on day-to-day operations, a majority of respondents in all countries report that digital technologies and data solutions have increased staff productivity, ranging from 54% in the UK to 80% in the UAE. Crucially, nearly two-thirds (61%) of global respondents see an improvement in patient outcomes as a result of the new tools introduced since the outbreak of COVID-19.
Sixty-six percent of respondents also agree that their staff quickly adapted to using new tools since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. And 61% believe that their organization is using these solutions more effectively than before the pandemic began, while 58% report that digital solutions have made operating models more efficient and 59% of respondents agree that digital solutions have enabled better collaborative working across multiple organizations.
Atalla says: “Sound investments will improve responsiveness and allow HHS professionals to provide the best possible care. The focus now should be on putting in place the right organizations, processes, tools and skills that are required to meet the medical needs of a post-pandemic world, and to prepare for future health crises – should they arise. Regulators, payers, service providers, vendors and service users should work together to learn the lessons of the COVID-19 crisis and plan for a better future for all.”
Uncertainty about the future
Despite this progress, there remains uncertainty for the use of technology in the future. While 48% of respondents expect to see an increase in technology investment in the next three years, 36% are unsure whether the solutions introduced in response to the pandemic will see further investment.
According to the report, major barriers to adoption include a lack of funding, concerns around interoperability across IT systems and a lack of stakeholder cohesion.
Professor Ara Darzi, co-director of the Institute for Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London, says:
“As this report demonstrates, digital technologies have enormous potential to improve the delivery of health care, not just during COVID-19 but beyond the pandemic if successfully and sustainably embedded into practices. However, access remains an important issue, so we must ensure that their adoption does not exacerbate inequalities through the ‘digital divide’ and that no patient gets left behind.”
Aloha McBride, EY Global Health Leader, says:
“Health systems around the world have taken a significant step toward delivering a more integrated, seamless and smarter health care experience. Much has been learned about how to integrate and align care across physical, remote and virtual environments. Yet, more learnings lie ahead to continue the transition to smarter health: developing shared technical and communications standards; allowing the permissioned, secure exchange of health information; and building the capabilities to draw actionable insights from the vast amounts of structured and unstructured health data.”
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About the survey
EY professionals worked with YouGov to administer a survey to a subset of their YouGov Plc UK panel of 800,000+ individuals who have agreed to take part in surveys. Fieldwork was undertaken between 3 September 2020 and 29 September 2020, with respondents completing the survey online. The total sample size was 2,243 health and social care managers globally, spread across six countries: Australia, India, Italy, UAE, the UK and the US.