Technology is rapidly re-shaping patients’ expectations of their healthcare providers, with the sector under pressure to adapt to meet the evolving expectations of today’s digitally-empowered patients, a new study has found.

According to MedicalDirector’s Patient Engagement Survey 2018, conducted with online appointment and ehealth platform HotDoc, Australians are demanding doctors adopt tech solutions to improve convenience, patient empowerment and care outcomes.

Patients want doctors to use more technology

In a survey of more than 2000 patients across Australia, the report discovered 70 per cent of patients want healthcare providers to improve their use of digital tools, mobile technology and the internet.

Patients are particularly attracted to technologies that could help them better manage their appointments, communicate with their general practitioners and get test results.

Key to adopting innovation is the doctor-patient relationship, MedicalDirector’s CEO Matt Bardsley said.

“Information always needs to be provided to patients with the appropriate support structures. That’s why the doctor needs to play an integral part in that communication at all times.”

Patients want continuity of care for better health outcomes

Australian GPs continue to provide a consistently high standard of care, reflected in good patient satisfaction, regular GP visits and loyalty to medical practices and doctors.

The research found continuity of care is high in the Australian healthcare system, with most patients (80 per cent) visiting their doctor at least every six months. Patient loyalty to general practitioners is also high, with 72 per cent of respondents consulting the same doctor for more than two years. Only two per cent of patients visited their GP less than once a year.

“The statistics around patient loyalty to their GPs doesn’t surprise me because I see that in my own practice. It is a good thing as continuity of care always leads to better health outcomes,” GP and Chief Medical Advisor at MedicalDirector Dr Charlotte Middleton said.  

Patients want you to respect their privacy

Australians demand a secure digital health ecosystem where the protection of their privacy is a top priority. When it comes to accessing medical health records, over 90 per cent of respondents agreed both security (availability, accuracy, safety and integrity of data) and privacy (confidentiality and appropriate use of data) are extremely important.

According to Bardsley, the survey says there is an appetite for better digital experiences but the ecosystem of innovation needs to be developed with a security-first mindset.

“We take universal sentiments about security being everything to patients very seriously, which is why we support that innovation through our partner ecosystem, and our solutions leverage the market-leading secure platform Microsoft Azure,” he said.

Patients want more health information

Education around health conditions continues to be an issue among Australian patients, with 78 per cent of patients researching their condition online before seeing their GP. Ninety per cent say they would like more resources from their GP and fact sheets explaining their condition and how to better manage it.

“The finding that 88 per cent of patients report getting no information beyond the doctor’s advice is problematic as it suggests that doctors likely overestimate their patients’ retention of information and underestimate the value of supporting information such as fact sheets or links to valuable online content,” HotDoc founder and CEO Dr Ben Hurst said.

“In fact, 40 to 80 per cent of information is forgotten immediately by the patient, which may be exacerbated further by factors such as ageing, cognitive deficit or anxiety. And poor recall of information is a major cause of non-adherence in patients.”

The survey found a clear divide exists between patient expectations and the engagement, information and overall experience doctors are currently offering.

To bridge the gap, healthcare providers need to explore how technology can increase their level of patient-centric care, and how new communication channels and resources can be used to offer more personalised patience experiences, enabling a future of healthcare that offers even better health outcomes.

 

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