Chances are, you see patients immersed in smartphones all the time in your waiting and exam rooms. It likely comes as no surprise, then, that patients are plugged in more than ever before — and turning to digital technologies not only to connect with friends but also to manage and improve health. Consider, for instance, these findings from Makovsky Health’s 2015 “Pulse of Online Health” survey:
- 91 percent of patients in the United States look online for health and medical information.
- 88 percent would share personal information digitally to improve care and treatment options.
- 66 percent would use a mobile app to manage their health. (Millennials all the more so.)
Yet as patients’ use of digital grows, studies show that doctors and healthcare organizations are slower to adopt these same technologies — whether because they question the ability of popular technologies to solve health problems, or they’re simply stretched thin and don’t have time to learn a new tool. If you run or operate a medical practice, hospital, or health system, turning your back on digital can come with hefty consequences, from failing to meet the needs of patients to disgruntled staff members, inefficient work processes, and even a loss of revenue.
If you’re struggling to keep pace with patients’ use of technology, what can you do to catch up? For starters, know and understand the three key ways patients use (or want to use) digital technologies to live healthier, less stressful, and more active lifestyles.
1. To boost knowledge and learn
Friendly, easy-to-use tools like Dr. Google, WebMD, and various web-based “symptom checkers” tout the ability to diagnose patients in seconds. Of course, the convenience of a speedy “diagnosis” is alluring, given the increasing amount of time patients have to wait to see doctors across a range of specialties. And the information patients can glean is growing more credible, with platforms like Dr. Google utilizing top-notch physicians (including those from the Mayo Clinic) to validate and fact-check information.
Many doctors, on the other hand, use the Internet far less often to research medical information, relying instead on traditional channels like print-based medical journals, a recent article from Physician’s Weekly explains. Plenty, in fact, have been quite vocal about the dangers of so-called “DIY diagnosis.”
But whether you prefer print or digital resources to stay abreast of your field is, ultimately, your own business. The fact of the matter is that your patients most certainly look for health information online. So instead of scoffing at their use of the web, work with them to suggest websites, forums, and other sources that align with your approach and meet your approval.
2. To track and monitor health
Digital technology provides more than information. Today’s patients use digital tools to track and stay on top of their health. From mobile apps that count calories and track nutrition, cholesterol, and exercise, patients are leveraging technology to acquire their own health data — and use it to gain insights and make sound health-related decisions. In 2014 alone, FitBit, Inc. had 6.7 million subscribers and sold a staggering 10.9 million of the wristwatch-like devices that track physical activity, sleep, and other health-related data. To date, however, clinicians have shown little interest in data collected by wearable devices.
Where physicians have shown more interest is in areas that blur the line between medical devices and consumer health products. Just this last year, Dexcom created a way to transmit real-time blood sugar readings to smartphones and smart watches — a move with real potential to improve life for people with type 1 diabetes. Plenty of other medical device companies are following suit, finding ways to use mobile to make data accessible not only to patients but also to doctors. Patient portals facilitate the sharing of data and information between doctors and patients — and are improving care.
3. To make healthcare more convenient
Skyrocketing healthcare prices, hectic schedules, and long appointment wait times likely contribute to the fact that people in the U.S. actually go to the doctor less than those in other countries — as few as four times a year, compared with, for example, Japan’s 13 times. But studies show that patients in the U.S. place a high value on convenience when it comes to healthcare, and this is where digital technologies can help. How, exactly?
For one, remote monitoring systems communicate symptoms, vital signs, and even pain levels for chronically ill patients to their doctors via a safe and secure server. And electronic medical records (EMRs) potentially eliminate the need for patients to coordinate their own care across physicians and health systems.
Likewise, mobile and web-based appointment booking apps like Everseat empower patients to schedule doctor appointments on demand, without having to pick up the phone and endure long hold times, only to be told they need to schedule weeks (or even months) in advance.
The reality? You can no longer dismiss digital technologies as a passing trend. To stay afloat and compete in the modern healthcare market, you have to embrace the same technology your patients use day in and day out to manage all aspects of life, from finance and parenting to entertainment, education, philanthropy, and social networking.
Want to learn how digital technologies can help you streamline operations and get ahead in today’s competitive marketplace? Get in touch to find out how Everseat’s revolutionary mobile and web-based app can streamline your operations, grow your bottom line, and increase patient access to timely care.