Healthcare Trends – The Top 10 Digital Transformations to Watch

For healthcare organizations big and small, a transformation towards the innovative patient and provider experiences continues to top the current list of digital healthcare trends. From the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), large-scale data initiatives, telemedicine and more, healthcare organizations are setting their sights on technologies that will spark widespread change.

What do some of the digital healthcare trends look like in 2019?

1. IoMT applications and devices

Patient wearables, digital health tracking apps, virtual assistants and more. The IoMT trend is in full swing, but effectively implementing means having a much deeper understanding of organizational and patient needs. Frost & Sullivan predicts the number of IoMT devices to be 20-30 billion by 2020, which means healthcare organizations will have greater accessibility, but also a greater number of choices to make.

Consumers, in the meantime, are transitioning. With data from 2017-2018, we see a clear upward trend of consumers taking control of their healthcare via the use of digital tools like telemedicine, wearables, and online provider reviews. The percentage of patients adopting at least one digital health tool increased from 80% in 2017 to 87% in 2018.

2. Telemedicine is changing the way consumers experience healthcare

Consumers are becoming increasingly open to the idea of telemedicine, especially when they realize telemedicine means more convenient, accessible healthcare.

Reduced wait times are one of the main benefits of telemedicine. In addition, parents who are managing the health of their children 24/7 appreciate the almost immediate care available from their own home.

3. Patients using digital health tools are satisfied with the experience

Whether using wearables or apps, users reported that they got what they were hoping for from the experience. Even for those who prefer in-person doctor visits to telemedicine, those who have used live video telemedicine are satisfied with it—particularly if they paid out of pocket. 69% of those who paid out of pocket indicated they were “extremely satisfied” versus 30% for those who did not pay out of pocket.

Patients who tracked various health goals—for example, weight, physical activity, sleep, medication adherence—via digital apps and wearables reported making progress on or otherwise achieving their health goals. While encouraging, innovators still have much to do to ensure sustained engagement that helps consumers achieve meaningful health outcomes.

4. Those with self-reported health conditions are more likely to track health goals

Those experiencing health challenges actively track their health, but digital solutions don’t consistently reach these high-need populations. Patients taking medication and those with high blood pressure are likelier than not to track a related health goal, but a minority of these groups use a digital solution to do so. Of those patients tracking their blood pressure, only 11% do so with a digital app/journal.

5. Discontinued use threatens the lasting utility of wearables

In a survey conducted by Frost & Sullivan, among the 24% of patients that own a wearable device or smartwatch, over a quarter reported that they no longer use the wearable.

Interestingly, the top two reasons for discontinued wearable use are contradictory. Nearly 30% of users discontinued use after achieving their intended goal. However,  20% stopped use because the wearable was ineffective in helping them achieve their goal.

6. Use of IoMT applications, devices and across age group

To highlight demographic hotspots and healthcare trends, we’ve highlighted four consumer segments:

  • Digital health adoption is significantly higher among young, high-income adults in comparison to other consumer segments.
  • Aging adults have the second highest adoption of digital health technologies. However, those with a moderate recurring health issue are more likely to use digital tracking tools and wearables. And, by a margin of more than 20 percentage points.
  • Not surprisingly, chronically ill seniors have the greatest demand for healthcare services. 86% visited a doctor at least twice in the past year and 97% are managing at least one prescription. Yet they are the least likely to leverage digital health technologies. And additionally have low rates of live video telemedicine use, digital health goal tracking, and wearable use.

7. Over 50% of healthcare consumers search online for reviews

58% of healthcare consumers, at some point in their lifetime, searched for an online review of a provider. This trend represents an increase from 50% in 2018, with the boost largely coming from increases in searches for pharmacies and hospitals.

It is unknown what drives consumers to act on a review (or not). However, one possibility for why many consumers do not take action is that even with more information online, consumer choice is likely constrained by other factors (e.g., insurance, geography).

8. Respondent willingness to share health data with an entity correlates with confidence in that entity’s data security

The trend is positive for most consumers who are willing to share health data with their physician. However, there is a significant drop-off in the willingness to share with other stakeholders. 58% are willing to share with health insurance companies and 52% with pharmacies. Though sharing data with multiple entities is inevitable (because sharing information with a physician nearly guarantees, for example, that it will be shared with a payer or pharmacy).

Data security matters now more than ever. Consumers’ willingness to share health data technologically, nearly perfectly correlates with consumer confidence in the security of their healthcare provider’s IT solutions. Consumer confidence in data security of tech companies declined from 31% in 2017 to 24% in 2018 (and this healthcare trend continues downward).

9. Having an in-person visit followed by a telemedicine visit with the same provider led to higher satisfaction

Consumers who had a prior, in-person visit followed by a telemedicine interaction were significantly more likely to be satisfied with their telemedicine visit. For instance, 92% of consumers with a prior in-person visit were satisfied with their video visit compared to 53% satisfaction among those without a prior in-person visit.

The finding in this healthcare trend holds true across all channels of telemedicine signaling several opportunities. First, providers have a tremendous opportunity to provide continuous care—and offer a great patient experience—through telemedicine. Second, these data support strategies that employ telemedicine to establish a more robust, long-term relationship with patients.

10. The Solutions to address physician burnout

With nearly 50% of doctors suffering from “burnout,” health systems are looking for ways to reduce bureaucratic tasks and technology fatigue. Many medical specialists feel overwhelmed when trying to juggle the needs of a busy practice, implementing and interacting with electronic health records systems and dealing with a seemingly ever-increasing number of performance metrics. Expect to see the healthcare trend in the use of medical scribes continue to increase. Additionally. the emergence of smarter voice-driven technologies (think Dr. Alexa), will continue to grow.