Survey: 75 percent of patients want digital health services

By: Brian Dolan | Jul 14, 2014        

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McKinsey Digital Patient SurveyAccording to a survey of thousands of patients in Germany, Singapore, and the United Kingdom, the adoption of digital healthcare services remains low because existing services are either low quality or not meeting patients’ needs. The survey, conducted by consulting firm McKinsey, included responses from at least 1,000 patients in the three countries.

“Many healthcare executives believe that, due to the sensitive nature of medical care, patients don’t want to use digital services except in a few specific situations; decision makers often cite data that point to relatively low usage of digital healthcare services,” McKinsey analysts Stefan Biesdorf and Florian Niedermann wrote in a recent blog post. “In fact, the results of our survey reveal something quite different. The reason patients are slow to adopt digital healthcare is primarily because existing services don’t meet their needs or because they are of poor quality.” 

McKinsey found that more than 75 percent of respondents would like to use some kind of digital health service. Many are interested in “mundane” offerings, the firm wrote.

“Surprisingly, across the globe, most people want the same thing: assistance with routine tasks and navigating the often-complex healthcare system,” the analysts write pointing to example companies like ZocDoc. “In Germany, Singapore, and the United Kingdom, for example—three very different countries with three very different health systems—patients most often cite ‘finding and scheduling physician appointments’ as the service with which they need assistance. Other commonly cited needs include help selecting the right specialist and support for repetitive administrative tasks such as prescription refills. What most of these services have in common is that they do not require massive IT investments to get started.”

McKinsey organized their writeup of the survey results into a series of five myths that they believe their data helps dispel about digital health. One of the first myths they aim to prove wrong is that digital health services are only of interest to younger patients.

“One of the more prevalent myths about healthcare is that only younger generations want to use digital services, and therefore digitized healthcare would not reach many of the system’s core stakeholders. Our survey shows, however, that patients from all age groups are more than willing to use digital services for healthcare. In fact, older patients (those over 50) want digital healthcare services nearly as much as their younger counterparts. More than 70 percent of all older patients in the United Kingdom and Germany want to use digital healthcare services; in Singapore, that number is even higher.”

McKinsey points out that older patients are more interested in websites and email while younger patients are more interested in newer media channels. And while McKinsey is on record as having one of the earliest, bullish predictions for the mobile health, the results from this latest survey indicate their enthusiasm for mobile health has perhaps waned a bit over the years:

“Mobile health—the practice of healthcare supported by mobile devices—is often hailed as the future of digital services in healthcare. Still, our survey shows that demand for mobile healthcare is not universal,” the analysts write. “It is therefore not the single critical factor in the future of healthcare digitization.”

The firm is quick to point out that mobile is still important, especially for younger patients, but efforts focused on chronic disease management tools for older patients, for example, should not be mobile-centric, they wrote.