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Consumers, Doctors Still Aren’t Agreeing on mHealth’s Goals

Black Book's latest survey finds that consumers aren't trusting mHealth to keep their data safe, while doctors just don't think it's going to make things better for them.

By Eric Wicklund

- Nine out of 10 consumers say their doctors should store mHealth data collected from wearables. And just as many of their doctors disagree

According to a poll of consumer mHealth attitudes by Black Book, 96 percent of physicians surveyed don’t want to see data from wearables, as they find it “overwhelming, redundant and unlikely to make a clinical difference.”

That’s what consumers are seeing as well. According to the survey, 94 percent of consumers with health or activity trackers said their doctor discouraged them from contributing that data, saying the practice wasn’t capable or interested in integrating that data with the patient’s EHR. An even higher 98 percent of consumers with a weight loss app reported the same pushback.

The survey points to a continuing chasm between consumers who want their doctors to adopt more mHealth tools and healthcare providers who are struggling to keep up with the demands of the profession. In the past, some surveys have found that consumers are losing faith in their doctors because they aren’t using the technology, while those same doctors have said they don’t yet see the value in it or feel it would make the healthcare experience worse.

While Black Book’s wide-ranging survey finds that consumers want access to more of their health information, and they want their healthcare providers to have that access as well. But 85 percent of physicians surveyed are rebuffing those advances because they’re already overwhelmed by EHRs and say EHRs and mobile health technology are making healthcare too impersonal.

READ MORE: VA Tests Telemedicine-based Collaborative Care for Rural Vets

“In this age of healthcare consumerism people want to receive care through technologically enabled alternatives like telemedicine visits, secure email communications with their practitioner, and immediate access to records and scheduling,” Douglas Brown, president of the Tampa, Fla.-based market research firm, said in a press release accompanying the survey.

According to the survey, 82 percent of physicians say increased access to healthcare resources by patients may be harming their ability to help their patients. They report that some “highly literate” patients do their own research online, collecting information that can be as inaccurate as it is accurate and complicating a doctor’s efforts to communicate with the patient and provide the right treatment.

That’s causing a disconnect with consumers who feel their doctor isn’t listening to them or willing to adapt to a consumer-centric healthcare environment. Some 96 percent of patients visiting a physician’s office reported leaving with poorly communicated or miscommunicated instructions about how to access patient data through a portal, and 91 percent said they’ve felt slighted by doctors who won’t take data from their personal devices.

Meanwhile, consumer confidence in the healthcare system’s ability to protect their personal health data is trending downwards. Where only 10 percent of consumers confessed to a lack of faith in health technology in 2014, that figure soared to 70 percent this year.

Interestingly, consumers would have more faith in their doctors if those doctors demonstrated that they know how to use the technology. According to the survey, 84 percent of patients said their trust in their doctor is influenced by how well he/she uses technology, while only 5 percent say they have issues with the technology itself.

READ MORE: Store-and-Forward Telehealth Service Replaces the Office Visit

That said, almost 70 percent of consumers say their doctor hasn’t demonstrated that he or she knows enough about the technology to safeguard patient information, and almost 90 percent said they’ve withheld health information during a visit due to that concern.

Overall, 87 percent of consumers surveyed said they’re unwilling to divulge all of their medical information to achieve advanced care, up from 66 percent in 2013. They’re especially critical of data pathways outside the doctor’s office or hospital, with pharmacy prescriptions (90 percent), mental health notes (99 percent) and chronic condition information (81 percent) the principal causes of concern when data is shared with employers, retailers and the government.

All this leads Brown to see cybersecurity as a major plot point in the coming year.

“Incomplete medical histories and undisclosed conditions, treatment or medications raises obvious concerns on the reliability and usefulness of patient health data in application of risk based analytics, care plans, modeling, payment reforms, and population health programming,” Brown said in the press release. “This revelation should force cybersecurity solutions to the top of the technology priorities in 2017 to achieve tangible trust in big data dependability.”

But while improved security might ease a lot of the tension between consumers and providers, the Black Book survey also indicates that mHealth won’t truly become commonplace until both the provider and patient understand how to use it. 

READ MORE: AMA Startup Pilots the Future of Connected Care

Dig Deeper:

How Evolving Healthcare Cybersecurity Threats Affect Providers

Physician Perspectives on Benefits of mHealth Adoption, Use

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