Communicating via email, making appointments over the Internet, checking medical test results online: patients can’t wait for their doctors to embrace digital technology – according to two American surveys, one by Technology Advice and the other by scientific journal Health Affairs, and reported by Forbes.
Over 60% of patients in the US believe digital services play an important role when choosing a doctor. So what sort of eHealth services are currently on offer? According to Technology Advice’s research, such services exist but aren’t in line with patients’ needs. Priorities for patients are online appointment scheduling, bill-paying and viewing test results, and whilst these services are gradually being developed, they have yet to be universally adopted.
Digital technology for personalised health monitoring
Whilst digital can prove useful in terms of communication and transactions between healthcare professionals and patients, it also offers a unique opportunity to ensure optimal monitoring and follow-up after treatment has been prescribed. And yet less than 20% of the people interviewed for the survey said they currently received such a service from their physician.
And there’s no need for state-of-the-art equipment to offer this type of service: just an email account is enough. In an article in Forbes about the Health Affairs survey, Leah Binder points out the prevailing technophobia in the medical profession: less than 10% of patients are currently able to communicate with their GP via email.
E-mail: a foreign language for the medical profession?
But why communicate via email? According to Binder, this is a reasonable request: effective communication with patients is one of healthcare’s biggest problems, and patients often feel blinded by medical jargon in a medical environment. “When you are nervously sitting in an examination room wearing a paper johnny, you are not in the best frame of mind to understand a series of complex instructions from your doctor. And the clinical jargon doctors and nurses use might as well be another language. This creates a real problem with healthcare quality.”
Of course, with a fee-for-service payment system, American physicians are reluctant to offer additional services outside the consultation time. Email security is another concern. These reservations urgently need to be addressed so that patients can benefit from the digital service they expect.
Digital for All, Now: fighting to improve patient care.
Photo credits: jfcherry laptop and stethoscope (Flickr / Licence CC by 2.0)