HIMSS18: Digital health tools increasingly in demand among patients

Healthcare consumers appear quite comfortable with digital-based health tools, including those with artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, according to a survey released by Accenture at the HIMSS18 conference in Las Vegas.

Out of the 2,301 consumers responding to the survey, 48 percent reported using health apps on a mobile or tablet device, up from 16 percent in 2014. Use of wearables more than tripled over the same period, from 9 percent to 33 percent in the current survey. 25 percent reported receiving some sort of virtual care service, up from 21 percent the year before, while 19 percent reported using some sort of AI-powered service.

“Driven by experiences outside of healthcare, consumers increasingly expect to use digital technologies to control when, where and how they receive care services,” said Accenture’s global health lead, Kaveh Safavi, MD. “By harnessing digital technologies in this way, healthcare will increasingly tap digital technologies to empower human judgement, free up clinician time and personalize care services to put control in the patients’ hands.”

The actual reported use of the tools was outmatched by consumers’ willingness to utilize them. Most respondents said they would use digital tools like home-based diagnostics (66 percent), virtual health assistants (61 percent) and virtual nurses that monitor health conditions, medications and vital signs at home (55 percent).

On wearables, most had favorable opinions, with 75 percent seeing the devices as beneficial to understanding their health condition, 73 percent saying the devices keep them better engaged with their own health or monitoring the health of a family member. 72 percent said they would wear data from their wearable with their doctor, an increase from 63 percent in last year’s survey.

Safavi said to HealthExec at HIMSS18 that use of AI-enabled healthcare services may be difficult to judge from the patient’s perspective, as consumers may not know some of the tools they interact with have AI capabilities—and when they do know, patients become “nervous” about the motivation behind the technology. Virtual care, however, may quickly reach a point where the majority of respondents report using it.

“75 percent said they would use it for afterhours care,” Safavi said. “So it’s context-specific, but if it was available as an option, they would use it for common symptom, urgent care-type treatment.”