Cisco Says 74 Percent of Consumers Open to Telehealth Sessions

Patients are willing to adopt health care IT services such as telehealth more than doctors realized, Cisco found in a new survey.

Consumers are embracing virtual health care sessions and storage of health data in the cloud, a new Cisco survey of consumers and health care decision makers revealed.

In fact, 74 percent of consumers are willing to participate in remote health sessions, according to the "Cisco Connected Customer Experience Report," which the company released March 4 at the HIMSS13 conference.

Consumers are showing confidence in using technology for health care telehealth sessions and as an information resource more than doctors imagined, according to Kathy English, senior director of public sector and health care marketing for Cisco. The company offers video collaboration platforms such as HealthPresence 2.5, announced Jan. 17.

"Consumers are less worried about the technology access than the health care decision makers think they are," English told eWEEK. "Telehealth enables them to get what they want and where they want it, and the technology trade-off is a moot point."

Providers don't need to be as conservative as far as patient tech adoption as they thought, said English. "They need to really try to reach the patient using technology," she said. "And telehealth is an option, cloud is an option and social media marketing consumers are starting to pay attention through their social networks, not necessarily Websites or portals created at the health care delivery system level."

Market research firm InsightExpress carried out the survey for Cisco in early 2013 and interviewed 1,547 consumers and 403 health care decision makers in 10 countries on sharing personal health data, in-person medical consultation versus remote care, and using technology to make recommendations on personal health. Respondents were based in Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Nearly three-quarters of consumers in China, Russia and Mexico were particularly open to virtual technology such as video chatting and text messaging for a heart condition. The survey also found that 60 percent of respondents in Germany, Japan and the United States were open to seeing a specialist using virtual technology.

"[Consumers] are OK with virtual access as a trade-off for getting access to care, and that was pretty much everywhere," said English. "People were comfortable with technology enabling their ability to see a physician."

In addition to virtual sessions with doctors, consumers are also interested in using computers or mobile devices to research health information, according to the Cisco survey. Approximately four in 10 consumers said they'd like to receive recommendations about doctors, hospitals and medication automatically through their PCs or mobile devices. Meanwhile, about 70 percent of consumers trusted technology as a resource to diagnose their health and determine if they needed to see a doctor.

Despite consumers' willingness to embrace technology, providers were more willing overall to share personal information. Of health care practitioners surveyed, 65 percent were willing to share personal information and 49 percent of patients were willing to share this data.

The Cisco survey also revealed some public confidence in storing medical data in the cloud despite doctors' regulatory concerns due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

"Assuming that there's adequate security, most consumers are comfortable with health records in the cloud," said English. People are willing to enter data in cloud health records about their weight loss, sleep patterns, exercise and vital signs.

Digital tools are just as important to consumers as in-person care from a doctor, according to Kate Barney, Cisco's marketing manager for global public sector and health care marketing as well as a nurse for more than 30 years.

"The results of the report demonstrate that as information, technology, bandwidth and integration of the network become the center of the "new world," both human and digital aspects are key parts to the overall patient experience, Barney wrote in a blog post. "These components lead to more real-time, meaningful patient and doctor interaction."