Confidence in digital health technologies’ and tools’ potential continues to progress as health systems continue to invest in a more digital health care experience – focusing on connecting with, communicating with, and monitoring patients outside the health system’s walls. While it’s reassuring to see health systems embrace the growing demand by consumers for a more digital care experience, successful patient/health system adoption is much more than investing money in and implementing new technology.
In the era of digital technology, consumerism in healthcare means patients demand the same kind of seamless digital experience they get when dealing with other service-oriented industries. The idea of healthcare consumerism is to empower patients so that they are involved in their healthcare decisions throughout every step of the patient journey. As informed consumerism rises, health systems will need to shift how they attract, engage, and treat new patients. Digital health tools must be a priority for health systems of all sizes.
Strong adopters of digital health technologies began with buy-in at the senior leadership level, redesigning the organizational strategy to become more consumer/patient-obsessed. In addition to senior leadership, the same type of commitment must be instituted into every organization’s initiative and job description.
Drivers for Digital Health Tools
The broad attraction of digital health technologies, such as connected health devices touchless patient intake and registration tools is improving efficiency, patient safety, and diagnostic ability. A growing number of health systems use and want to use more digital tools. And there’s certainly no lack of patients demanding these tools. A recent report from the Center for Connected Medicine (CCM) proposes that organizations with a priority on digital health technologies and tools are more likely to achieve patient/health system adoption. The most significant drivers for implementing digital health tools are improving access to care, helping patients monitor and manage their health, and achieving greater patient satisfaction.
Many health systems are only in the early stages of implementing digital tools, so it’s not a surprise that we’re seeing patient adoption lower than we’d like (pre-pandemic). But the vision is clear. Digital health technologies and tools are long-term investments that will net great returns. Health systems note that patient portals are pivotal to their patient engagement strategies.
Barriers of Implementation
Organizational barriers such as misaligned priorities regarding the governance, budget, and speed of their patient engagement strategies are shared. Additional implementation barriers of digital health technologies that organizations face include internal staff members unwilling to change their workflow to accommodate patient engagement. Organizational size and structure also produce unique challenges. Large and mid-sized health systems perceive integration with current tools and technologies as one of the biggest challenges of adoption. Small health systems note that patient and provider interest in shifting to digital devices as their top challenge.
A Human Touch is Still Required
Digital health technologies encompass a broad scope of tools that engage patients for clinical purposes; collect, organize, interpret and use clinical data; and manage outcomes and other care quality measures. In 2020 alone, 28 percent of patients switched providers because of a poor digital health experience – a 40 percent increase from 2019 and potentially credited to increased patient engagement technologies. On the flipside, not meeting digital health demands also carries more risk with younger patients than older ones, the survey found. Healthcare consumers ages 18 to 54 are four times more likely to consider switching providers if they do not deliver on their preferred digital health experience.
In the last decade, we have changed the model of care by virtualizing the practice of medicine where it makes clinical and economic sense. Telemedicine-enabled virtual visits are increasing providers’ efficiency in the era of bundled payments while providing a lower-cost and more convenient care option for many patients. Frequently, this online care reduces emergency room visits. Having patients play an active role in their health gives them more necessity, encouraging feelings of empowerment when it comes to making healthy decisions, and reaching out to the healthcare team with questions and concerns. The most efficient way for providers to get their patients involved and drive adoption is to engage with them often and enable them with information about adherence and the value of prevention. Whatever technologies or tools are adopted, a mix of digital and the human touch will result in much easier implementation and adoption.