The overwhelming majority (95%) of Americans own mobile phones, 77% own smartphones, and 53% own tablets. The popularity of these devices has had a profound impact on business in the form of a trend known as “consumerization of IT,” referring to expectations that these personal devices can be used for both personal and business activities, and that most activities should be able to be accomplished with these devices. In fact, a growing population uses smartphones as their primary means of online access, even at home (20% of Americans today), adding to the demand that services be available through apps and websites.
Healthcare is not immune to the trend. In fact, it’s quite the opposite when you consider the largest single population group in the American workforce now is millennial digital natives. That also makes them the largest group of healthcare decision makers, which, thanks to their dependence on mobile devices, should create a growing demand for telehealth and other digital healthcare applications. Already, 40% of millennials agree that telehealth services are important.
There are already many ways consumer devices are enabling better, more efficient, and more convenient care. As the consumerization of healthcare continues to drive greater patient access, engagement, and awareness through common consumer devices and applications, adoption of these services will drive even greater synergies between personal devices and traditional healthcare.
Personal devices are removing barriers to access by enabling remote consultations with primary care physicians or specialists. Using telehealth services, like video conferencing apps on phones, tablets, or PCs, patients are able to consult physicians not only from the convenience of their homes, but anywhere they may need immediate advice. The ability to communicate directly with doctors regardless of location leads to faster and more comfortable care.
With text messaging still the most popular mobile communications app in use, text or web chat provide yet another opportunity to engage with providers when voice and video aren’t required, and alleviates the need to wait for a doctor or staff member to become available. Again, the result is a more convenient exchange of information that allows patients to use the medium of their choosing to communicate with providers.
Similarly, making, changing and cancelling appointments can be a tedious process. Online portals and mobile applications allow patients to easily schedule appointments. Additionally, systems can be designed to require specific details to be provided based on the nature of the appointments, ensuring physicians have the necessary information and can appropriately treat the patient, but doesn’t require additional time to provide extraneous detail. Studies have specifically shown that patients want these kinds of capabilities integrated into their providers’ platforms, including:
- Automated reminders sent to schedule appointments
- The ability to request prescription refills via smartphones
- Online booking, changing, or canceling of appointments.
Remote Patient Monitoring
Thanks to biosensors, accelerometers, and other sensors, combined with applications specifically designed to monitor various conditions, wearable devices are enhancing quality of care and life for patients. For chronic disease management or specific injury recovery, rather than requiring office visits or home nurses, conditions and progress can be conveniently tracked using devices many patients are already using for other purposes.
Patient Portal and Records
While there’s been considerable debate over how much information should be made available to patients, and many providers still have fragmented patient record systems, the consensus among physicians is that quality of care and communication, along with patient satisfaction with providers, can be improved with easy access to EHRs. Specifically, the ability to view records and even edit some details (personal information, allergies, medical history, current medications, new or recurring symptoms, etc.) increases patient engagement and may make them more aware of any changes in conditions and of their general health.
Digital healthcare tools and services are changing the traditional patient-doctor relationship. They are making communication easier and more effective, providing easier access to information and care, and they are enabling patients to be more involved with their own general wellness, all of which are objectives of integrated telehealth platforms that bridge healthcare-specific technologies with consumer devices with which patients are already intimately familiar. That familiarity is the driving force behind the demand for more digital healthcare services that drive benefits for patients and physicians alike.
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