How Does Digital Health Consumer Adoption Impact Your Healthcare Practice?
December 1, 2015
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Rock Health is quite possibly the most well-known digital health venture fund. They’ve made investments in popular startups like Doctor on Demand, Aptible, and Omada to name a few. Earlier this year, they published a long report that outlines how trends in technology are shaping how consumers interact with healthcare services. In this post, I’ve summarized some of the results they’ve found from their research and surveys. I’ll focus mostly on how these consumer adoption trends directly impact healthcare practices – since most of the clients using Connect the Doc are private practice owners or associates. When you have some more time, I would strongly encourage you to read their full report here.

Patients have already researched their condition before they see the healthcare provider.

Have you ever had a patient come into your treatment room and tell you what they have and how to treat it? Survey respondents indicate 71% of the population uses online and mobile resources to search for specific health topics. Sites like WebMD and Iodine have made it convenient for patients to do their own research so when they see their healthcare provider they often come prepared with a self-diagnosis. This means the healthcare provider may have to tactfully address whether the perceived diagnosis is actually correct after examining the patient. Some patients can be sensitive to hearing a healthcare professional’s opinion that differs from their previous understanding of their condition.

Half of the population checks for online reviews.

50% of survey respondents checked online reviews for doctors and healthcare services. I’ve personally seen studies where more than 70% of patients that do not get a referral from friends, family, or another healthcare provider will check online reviews before making a decision. Therefore, all healthcare providers must be vigilant of their online reputation. The most common sites for patients to check out are on Google, Yelp, Healthgrades, Vitals, and RateMDs. The more online reviews for a healthcare practice, the better it is for their business. While the practice may not have control over negative reviews that have already been posted, there are ways to mitigate future risk and maintain credibility in this vulnerable online space. With Connect the Doc, our reputation management platform helps you generate more reviews by trigger emails and text messages after a patient’s visit. We then take all the positive feedback and share it on Google +, your Facebook page, and finally syndicate it across 50+ other directories that host reviews to improve your SEO.

 Some patients now use mobile health tracking and wearable devices.

17% reported the use of mobile health tracking applications while 12% indicated ownership of wearable devices that help track key health-related factors. Today there are numerous health tracking applications that may work in tandem with a complementary wearable device. For a better understanding of a patient’s progress with a certain condition, healthcare providers now have the option of asking their patients whether they use any mobile app or physical device to track health metrics. Data collected from these apps and devices can – in some cases – be quite useful for healthcare providers. The most popular wearable devices are FitBit, Apple Watch, Jawbone, Moto360, Samsung Gear, and my personal favourite, the Pebble watch, which was created by another (and more popular) Vancouver-based entrepreneur – Nadeem Kassam (yes we share the same name).

Few patients have embraced the concept of telemedicine and researching genetics.

7% of the population interacted with these two specific categories in digital health: use of genetic-based services including family planning and personal DNA; use of video-based technologies to receive medical care or advice from a healthcare professional. This means firstly that healthcare providers can get greater clarity on a patient’s genetic predispositions through ancestral research and family history. The second category would imply that healthcare providers have the option to interact with patients remotely by potentially conducting virtual meetings in circumstances where the patient is unable to physically come to the practice for a visit. There are a number of telemedicine platforms in the United States, however in Canada, there’s just one startup that comes to mind. That’s Medeo! Medeo was purchased by QHR in November of last year for $2.25M and 1M in common shares, a price tag that many in the digital healthcare space thought was a bit below market value. While the technology was excellent, my understanding was that the government was not thrilled about paying 2 doctors for the same consultation. In my personal experience, I found that it was incredibly useful for quick check-ins and prescription refills, however, less useful for when a physical exam or tests were required to do a proper diagnosis. Nonetheless, being able to communicate with your doctor via video chat is amazing, so I hope that we find a great way to utilize the technology that has been built in different ways.

 

All-in-all, these are just a few of the trends in digital health that are directly impacting caregivers. The mentioned research is based on a sample size of 4,017 respondents with an incidence rate of 90%. Individuals with either personal internet access, either at home, work or via their mobile phones were eligible to take the survey. Additional screening was based on demographic requirements. To read the complete study, I’d encourage you to visit: http://rockhealth.com/reports/digital-health-consumer-adoption-2015/