Several healthcare technology advancements are converging to deliver significant benefits to consumers. According to Accenture research, healthcare consumers continue to show strong use of digital technology for self-service care – and the numbers are rising each year. In 2018, 75 percent of US consumers surveyed said technology is important to managing their health. Patients are increasingly open to intelligent technologies taking on elements of their care, such as medical consultations and monitoring. And they are using self-service digital health tools that go beyond websites.
In some areas, healthcare providers are keeping pace with demand. But when it comes to virtual care, robotics and artificial intelligence (AI), consumer interest is surpassing what providers currently offer. There is an opportunity for providers to differentiate themselves by offering new, technologically advanced services that satisfy consumer interest and expectations.
Healthcare consumers are willing to wear technology to track their fitness, lifestyle and vital signs. Use of wearables has more than tripled since 2014, from 9 percent to 33 percent. Nearly half (48 percent) of healthcare consumers are using mobile/tablet apps, compared to just 16 percent in 2014. Consumers are willing to share their wearable health device data with their doctor (90 percent) and nurse or other healthcare professional (88 percent).
Compared to 2016, more are now willing to share wearables data with their health insurance plan (up from 63 percent in 2016 to 72 percent in 2018), and with online communities or other app users (up from 38 percent in 2016 to 47 in 2018). Consumers have less interest in sharing wearable device data with their employer (38 percent) or a government agency (41 percent).
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One-quarter of consumers surveyed (25 percent) say they have received virtual healthcare services, up from 21 percent in our 2017 virtual healthcare research. Of those who have accessed care virtually, 74 percent were satisfied with the experience. Nearly half (47 percent) of all respondents would prefer a more immediate, virtual appointment over a delayed, in-person appointment.
Nearly three-quarters of healthcare consumers would use virtual care for an after-hours appointment, and about two-thirds would use it for a follow-up appointment after seeing a doctor or other healthcare professional in person.
Patients like the availability, time savings and personalized insights from AI. When asked whether they would use an artificially intelligent virtual doctor provided by their health service, nearly half (47 percent) say they would use it because it is available whenever they need it. Some, however, say they like visiting their doctor (29 percent), they do not understand enough about how AI works (26 percent) and they do not like to share their data (23 percent).
Healthcare consumers are increasingly comfortable with options such as robot-assisted surgery. Respondents were asked to imagine they required spinal surgery to fix chronic, debilitating back pain from degenerative disc disease. In this scenario, before they are informed of the benefits, about one in three would prefer AI-assisted surgery and surgery planning over traditional approaches. More than half (56 percent) would prefer AI-assisted surgery after learning about its benefits (these benefits were based on real clinical data). Younger people are more open to robot-assisted surgery. Before being informed of the benefits, 46 percent of those aged 18-44 would prefer it.
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KIP WEBB, M.D., M.P.H.
Managing Director, North American Provider Portfolio Lead Accenture Health
Managing Director, Digital Health