Although patients are hungry for consumer-based healthcare tech and interested in services like virtual care, the bulk of technologies doctors are implementing don’t improve access for consumers or assist people in proactively managing their health.

These were among the findings of an EY report that determined the bulk of technologies that doctors are implementing are focused on reducing their administrative burden, diagnostic support, or to communicate with other medical professionals.

More than a third (36 percent) of Australians surveyed in the report said they would be willing to be treated through on-demand e-visits for common acute symptoms, such as colds, flus, rashes, instead of in-person visits.

In addition, 51 percent of doctors acknowledge that video consults would produce better and more efficient patient outcomes -- close to 20 percent of doctors already use tools to support virtual visits, remote monitoring and patient engagement tools such as apps.

Worryingly, the report’s results indicate that in the absence of accessible healthcare technology, many Australians are turning to the Web, potentially at the expense of their own health.

In the past 12 months, more than half of Australians (55 percent) surveyed said they have researched an illness, injury or health problem online, with more than a third (38 percent) saying they conducted an internet search to source information on what medical condition they might have.

“The growing divide between the digitally engaged consumer-patient and the doctor community that is slower-to-embrace digital innovation requires urgent attention,” the report noted. “If the divide is not addressed, incumbents won’t realise the promised value; empowered consumers and non-incumbents will redefine the game.”

Almost half of consumers surveyed (49 percent) said they want to engage with doctors virtually to save time and money.

Though doctors were quick to acknowledge the productivity gains of virtual visits, more than three-quarters (76 percent) of doctors said have no plans to introduce technologies that would enable virtual visits, thanks to concerns over funding and payment systems in Australia.

“The structure of our current payment system is a major roadblock in the uptake of digital technologies, EY Oceania health leader Jenny Parker said in a statement. “Medicare rebates need to extend to all virtual visits, not just people in remote areas.”

She noted digital healthcare and the efficiencies it can create must be a priority to ensure all Australians are able to access the healthcare they need.

“This data shows that people would proactively manage their well-being in conjunction with their doctors if the digital tools were in place to facilitate this,” Parker continued. “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.” 

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