Health IT Moves to Better Connect Patients, Doctors

Millennials are not so concerned with privacy issues, with more than 60 percent interested in proactively providing health data from a wearable device.

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Americans primarily use antiquated methods to communicate with their doctors and manage their health, according to a survey of 1,700 adults, conducted by Salesforce.

The company’s first “State of the Connected Patient” report found less than 10 percent of those surveyed use the Web, email or text to set up appointments. All respondents had health insurance and a designated primary care physician. Only 21 percent of respondents use the Web to review their health data. The report indicates that a lack of modern technology could be partly responsible for challenges around preventive care in America, as 40 percent of respondents said they receive no ongoing care recommendations from their physician.

The report also found 86 percent of patients currently have health insurance and are generally satisfied with their care. But health care providers will likely face pressure in the near future from the next generation of patients--Millennials--who expressed strong interest in using new technologies to collaborate with their primary care physician.

For example, 60 percent of Millennials—those aged 18-34 years old--support the use of tele-health options to eliminate in-person health visits and 71 percent would like to have their provider use an app to book appointments, share health data and manage preventive care.

"The data suggests Millennials are not as concerned with privacy issues, as more than 60 percent of them would be interested in proactively providing health data from a wearable device, like a FitBit, directly to their doctor," Todd Pierce, senior vice president of Salesforce Industries health care and life sciences division, told eWEEK. "That's an incredible stat and should be an eye-opener for providers nationwide."

Pierce explained this is a generation that has been marinating in technology since they were young, so they are conditioned to sharing personal data with others and through the cloud, whether it's online banking, peer-to-peer lending or, as the report suggests, managing their own health care data.

A phone call is the most common way to set up appointments--76 percent of patients use this method--followed by in-person scheduling (25 percent).

While reviewing health data is still most commonly done in person—39 percent of patients do this-- Web portals are making gains, with 21 percent of patients reviewing their health data through a Web portal, while only 11 percent review data by phone.

Mobile devices and mobile apps top the list of technologies that patients would like to see included in their health experience.

Beyond mobile tools, 61 percent of insured Millennials are interested in 3D printing devices to aid their health, and 57 percent would be interested in cutting-edge tools like pills that can monitor internal vitals when swallowed.

"It's still early days for 3D printing in health, but the value is really in how inexpensive it is to produce customized health solutions for patients, including wearables for life monitoring, disease monitoring and -- even more exciting -- devices that measure mechanics, limbs, joints and more," Pierce said. "The other key scenario is producing devices and objects, like prosthetics, that can't be shipped or stocked easily, such as in remote areas or developing markets."