- More than half of healthcare professionals surveyed in new study said implementing patient-facing digital tools — such as online portals for accessing medical records and scheduling appointments, along with more advanced services such as telehealth — are a top priority at their organizations.
- Larger hospitals and clinics — those with 500 beds or more — were more likely to say digital health tools for patients are a critical or high priority (58%). Just 35% of those at smaller clinics with 200 beds or less felt the same way, and 48% at mid-sized clinics. The Center for Connected Medicine, a group operated by UPMC, GE Healthcare and Nokia, issued the report.
- The most common tools respondents said they currently use help patients manage simple tasks: accessing health records, making appointments, paying bills and searching for doctors, for example. Patient check-in and arrival management, along with monitoring and managing chronic conditions digitally, are what their organizations are looking to invest in next, according to those polled.
Cost is a key barrier for providers trying to implement digital tools for patients, according to the report. Difficulty using new tools with existing systems, such as EHRs, was also frequently mentioned, along with operational challenges.
The group partnered with HIMSS media to conduct the online survey, in which CCM was not identified as a sponsor. The research looked at answers from 136 U.S. healthcare professionals in information technology, informatics, business and clinical roles in September 2019.
Only 3% of those surveyed said their clinics have no digital tools available to patients and no plans to add any, while 76% said they have at least one and 25% said they have four or more.
At smaller hospitals and clinics, respondents said getting patients to adopt the new technology was their biggest challenge. Lack of provider interest in shifting to digital tools was also cited exclusively among those from small hospitals.
Some reluctance for the increasing digitization of medicine stems from privacy issues, given long-standing rules to protect peoples' medical records and other personal health information. Large medical record companies are capitalizing on those concerns amid increased competition from tech giants outside the healthcare industry, such as Apple and Google.
Some industry giants are also pushing back against proposals from the HHS that aims to make sharing patient data easier by preventing information blocking, or practices used by providers that block patients from accessing their electronic health information. The final regulations are expected early this year.
But advocates say giving patients and caregivers better access to personal medical information will result in better care — a response echoed in the survey when respondents were asked what the biggest driver is for implementing patient-facing digital tools.
Lowering the cost of care was another driver, although less important to respondents than increasing patient satisfaction and access to services. Respondents also said their organizations are more likely to successfully integrate the new tools into operational workflows than translate their use into actual cost savings.