Healthcare is an industry that stands to befit greatly from the rise of ubiquitous internet access, better code-confoernceing support and the ability to use technology to help people proactively manage their health and well-being. But a study by EY has found that doctors are are more interested in reducing their administrative burden, diagnostic support or communicating with other medical professionals. While some doctors are trying to sue tech to offer better patient care and services, they are falling a long way behind patient expectations and desires.
EY Oceania Health Leader Jenny Parker said “Digital healthcare and the efficiencies it can create must be a priority to ensure all Australians are able to access the healthcare they need”.
The How do you care for today while building the health of tomorrow report revealed that almost 20% of doctors use tools to support virtual visits, remote monitoring and patient engagement tools such as apps. However, almost half of consumers surveyed said they want to engage with doctors virtually to save time and money. The bulk of technologies that doctors are implementing are focused on reducing their administrative burden, diagnostic support, or to communicate with other medical professionals. They don’t improve access for consumers or assist people in proactively managing their health.
EY’s report found that in the absence of accessible healthcare technology, many Australians are turning to the internet, potentially at the expense of their own health. In the past 12 months, over half of Australians (55%) have researched an illness, injury or health problem online, with over a third (38%) using internet search to source information on what medical condition they might have.
Patients are hungry for health-tech, especially virtual visits and remote monitoring to save time and money. However, the current healthcare system is built around the idea of direct interactions between healthcare providers and patients with the use of online, or technology driven services not covered by the same rebate systems as tractional health services.
“The structure of our current payment system is a major roadblock in the uptake of digital technologies. Medicare rebates need to extend to all virtual visits, not just people in remote areas,” Parker said.
An overwhelming number of consumers indicated they would be willing to share information on dietary and nutrition intake (73%), lifestyle choices such as smoking and drug use (73%), and exercise patterns (58%) if it meant receiving better healthcare.
‘Consumers want digital healthcare options. But doctors are not yet equipped to meet this demand and the system doesn’t encourage them to introduce consumer focused tools,” added Parker.
EY’s report shows over a third (36%) of Australians would be willing to be treated via on- demand e-visits for common acute symptoms, such as colds, flus, rashes, etc. instead of in- person visits. Fifty-one percent of doctors acknowledge that video consults would produce better and more efficient patient outcomes.
And while two in five doctors acknowledged that of virtual visits would make them more efficient, 76% of doctors have no plans to introduce technologies that would enable virtual visits. Funding and payment systems in Australia fuel this reluctance.
In world terms, Australia does have a great healthcare system. We have a strong public health system and practice screen for cervical and bowel cancer, and other potentially life-threatening conditions means serious issues are often nipped in the bud. We have an opportunity to do even better but it will need healthcare practitioners to change their attitude towards things like virtual consultations.