- A new survey suggests that mHealth may be useful in bridging a startling perception gap between doctors and their patients.
Nearly half of American consumers recently surveyed by Xerox say they take complete responsibility for their health – yet only 6 percent of doctors in the same survey say this is true. Conversely, 40 percent of doctors and payers say consumers don’t know how to take charge of the healthcare, while less than 5 percent of the consumers surveyed say that’s accurate.
Rohan Kulkarni, vice president of strategy and portfolio for the Xerox Business Group, says that’s because the doctor and patient aren’t communicating enough in between office visits.
“When you see your primary care physician, you get very little face time with him or her - there’s very little opportunity to have a relationship, communicate, etc., outside of receiving your diagnosis,” he says. “There’s just no channel there for that type of communication.”
That’s where mHealth comes into play.
“The easy answer, in terms of a solution, is technology, because the technology already exists - and yes, much of that technology is mobile,” he says. “At the very least, in the most simple form, phone calls can be made shortly after appointments to collect feedback from the patient. For chronic conditions, mobile apps can continually collect patient data and provide it to the physician, allowing them to intervene when necessary.”
“The harder answer is that we still have an episodic point of view in healthcare,” Kulkarni adds. “We need to be thinking about healthcare more holistically, with providers asking themselves ‘How can I positively impact the overall health of the community?’ So there’s an element of population health management at play here.”
The survey highlights a doctor-patient divide that has shown up often in mHealth circles, and points to the challenges faced by healthcare providers in adopting new tools and technology that will improve patient engagement and outcomes. Recent reports have suggested that consumers are getting mHealth apps online rather than waiting for a doctor to recommend them, while another study found that very few health systems are developing apps that address patient needs.
According to Xerox’s survey of more than 750 consumers and 200 payers and providers, 90 percent of doctors say consumers need help from their physicians to make healthier living a priority, but only 55 percent of consumers say they need that encouragement. According to Kulkarni, payers and providers aren’t convinced that consumers know what to do, and mHealth tools provided by physicians and health plans would help guide them.
But do consumers want those tools? According to the survey, more than 63 percent of consumers wish their primary care physician, pharmacist and health plan “were more connected on their personal health.” That’s a clear sign that payers and providers aren’t giving consumers the mHealth resources they want.
“Consumers and healthcare professionals have very different views on patient empowerment and control,” Kulkarni said in remarks accompanying the survey. “Payers and providers are much less likely to believe patients are taking responsibility for their health than what patients perceive to be true. The results suggest that improved communication could allow healthcare professionals to better showcase to their patients how they’re a partner in their health.”