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8 Guidelines to Make mHealth More Attractive to Patients

A new Deloitte survey finds that mHealth and telehealth are appealing to consumers - but they aren't using the technology. How can providers boost the adoption rate?

- Healthcare may still be lagging behind other industries in consumer adoption, but 70 percent of consumers surveyed by Deloitte want to use mobile devices to improve their health and communicate with their care providers.

The challenge, the survey says, is in getting healthcare providers to make that process easy.

“Consumers are open to technology-aided care, but providers will likely need to earn their trust on both quality of care and protection of patient information,” says researchers Greg Reh, Leslie Korenda and Claire Boozer Cruse.

Healthcare “should consider targeting caregivers as well as patients for adoption, and work to coordinate care via integrated platforms,” the researchers say in Deloitte’s 2016 Survey of US Health Care Consumers, released Aug. 30. “And potentially toughest of all: To win customer buy-in, the user experience - for caregivers, patients, insurers, and everyone else - will likely need to be as seamless as possible.

The survey of 3,751 consumers, conducted this past February and March by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, finds that the Internet of Things is shaping consumer attitudes and the healthcare ecosystem, ranging from smart devices in the home setting to mHealth platforms that move care out of the hospital or doctor’s office.

READ MORE: mHealth Shows its Maturity at HIMSS16

And the IoT is driven by several trends: An aging population that wants to live at home rather than a senior care facility; an increase in chronic conditions and obesity; an increasing demand for caregivers, be they family members, friends of professionals; and the shift from episodic care toward value-based care, particularly by payers interested in incentivizing providers to improve outcomes and reduce healthcare costs.

But while consumers are using mobile devices to shop (86 percent), do their banking (72 percent) and file taxes (51 percent), they’re less likely to use mHealth tools. While 58 percent surveyed said they do refill prescriptions electronically, only 32 percent measure fitness and health improvement goals, 31 percent pay a health bill online, 24 percent monitor their health, 17 percent receive mHealth alerts of reminders, and 15 percent measure, record or transmit medication or treatment data.

“It’s one thing for healthcare providers to implement new IoT technology - and quite another for patients and caregivers to embrace it,” the researchers said.

But while mHealth use is low, interest in mHealth is, researchers say, “substantial.” More than half are interested in telemedicine for post-surgical care and chronic disease management, and almost 40 percent are interested in the technology for caregiving.

Many consumers see value in remote patient monitoring, the survey found, but they’re less inclined to pay out of pocket for it. A majority said insurance should pay for the platform, while only 20 percent said they’d pay for the service. When asked what the ideal monthly subscription cost would be, the average was $58 – with millennials agreeing to pay $88, Gen Xers paying $53, seniors willing to fork out $40 and Baby Boomers only willing to pay $32.

READ MORE: Telemedicine Gives Newborns a Welcome to the World

When asked who should pay for telemedicine sessions, 80 percent said it should be covered by insurance. Of the 20 percent who said they’d pay out of pocket, the average suggested price for a one-time fee was $70, with millennials willing to pay $100, seniors paying $67, Gen Xers paying $61 and Baby Boomers paying $43.

Deloitte then asked consumers what’s keeping them from using remote patient monitoring and telemedicine technology. Roughly 40 percent said the quality of care would be lower than an in-person visit, while 36 percent worried about security, just under 30 percent said the technology is too impersonal, and 15 percent said it would be too difficult to learn how to use the technology. Roughly 30 percent, meanwhile, said they had no reservations.

Deloitte’s researchers concluded that healthcare providers need to educate consumers and caregivers about the benefits of mHealth and telehealth technology. They – and technology companies – also need to follow these steps to make the technology more appealing:

  1. Earn consumers’ trust with quality products and services;
  2. Make sure that patient privacy and data security are a priority.
  3. Make the technology or service patient-centric, with an emphasis on collaboration between providers and patients;
  4. Include caregivers;
  5. Make the process consistent and trustworthy;
  6. Engage patients and caregivers;
  7. Make the technology/service as seamless and easy to use as possible; and
  8. Give consumers what they want.

“As more healthcare moves to self-care, consumers will likely demand easy-to-use platforms, high-quality care and secure health and personal information,” the researchers concluded. “Many will want to keep a human connection with their physicians, even if connected over the phone, video or the Internet. So it will be incumbent upon manufacturers and care providers to develop products and services that meet consumer expectations while taking advantage of IoT technology’s benefits - and to educate consumers, both as patients and caregivers, to recognize and understand the value for them as well.”

Dig Deeper:

READ MORE: Can mHealth Help Battle Opioid Abuse?

Using mHealth to Turn the Consumer into a Patient

Using mHealth to Create the Internet-Enabled Doctor

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