5 Technologies Patients Actually Use

Posted November 1, 2017
By Julia Zehel


Still, there are some tech options that patients actually use, according to a survey by the University of Phoenix College of Health Professions. The study, which surveyed 2,201 adults via online interviews, looked at how often patients used a given type of service. Here’s five chart-toppers, ranked by percentage of respondents who used the service in the past year, with some background added for context:

Text message reminders: Many people might think of highly-advanced robots and cutting-edge technologies when they hear “health tech”, but the tools making the most impact for the average person are far simpler—and more useful. Electronic communication and appointment reminders have proved effective, as 28% of survey respondents said they had agreed to receive text message-based appointment and treatment reminders during the last year. This falls in line with other research suggesting that consumers respond well to healthcare-related texts (and even change their lifestyle) when wellness programs provide the right mix of behavioral reminders and health information.

E-prescription filling services: Patients seem to like filling their prescriptions online, with 26% telling the University of Phoenix that they use e-prescription services during the past year. This is good news for providers—more than one study has shown that such tools can improve patient’s compliance with their medication regimen which, in turn, can lower their odds of experiencing complications from chronic conditions.

Online access to health records: Not long ago, few patients accessed their health records online, and many had never even seen the portals their providers offered. However, things have changed dramatically in recent times, with the survey finding that 25% accessed such records within the last year. Other data suggests that even patients who don’t review their health records regularly want to have the option. A study published last year by Accenture for that 92% of patients believe they should have full access.The ability to access one’s medical record electronically is dependent upon the EHR and the health system that uses it, but most do offer some sort of digital patient portal. Giving people easier access to this information is something that’s being championed by physicians and patients alike, and one group in particular called Open Notes believes that letting patients review doctor’s notes is not a privilege, but a fundamental (and federally protected) right.

Open Notes has proven that reading doctor’s helps increase engagement— patients who read notes take medications more effectively, are better able to manage chronic illness, and play a key role in improving the quality of care. Doctor’s visit notes, which are a vital part of a patient’s medical record, are often not shared with patients. Open Notes seeks to change that by pushing for health systems to provide widespread doctor-to-patient transparency, and so far, over 19 million patients have open access their notes.

Online appointment booking services: While less commonly used, appointment booking services are finding a place among patients, with 15% of survey respondents saying that they had made appointments online during the past year. While there is little research pinning down consumer motivation for using these functions, it seems pretty likely that convenience plays a key role. (Also, there is some evidence that medical practices benefit financially when they don’t have to book appointments verbally.)

There is also plenty of evidence that health systems lose a ton of money—$60 billion across the industry—and administrative hours—100,000 hours—from patient no-shows and poorly booked schedules. This massive amount of waste also represents a massive opportunity for companies to develop solutions that help health systems recoup that cost of cancellations and no shows. Mymo is a solution that syncs with EHRs to and allows health systems to fill gaps in their schedules with both in-person and virtual visits. This is a win-win for everyone, as health systems waste goes down and people are able to see physicians when they’re actually sick—and not days (or even weeks) later.

Online chat capabilities: This one’s a dark horse, but give it time. While only 5% of survey respondents said they used online chat for healthcare purposes during the past year, but if other industries are any indication that number should soon rise. Just look at online retailers. E-retailers have been offering customer service chat options for quite some time, and consumer seem to like them a great deal. Now, with the increasing sophistication of AI-based chatbots, providers could leapfrog e-retailers and roll out intelligent bots that will support, educate, and even triage patients. In other words, watch this space.

AI chatbots are one way in which patients could communicate with medical professionals, but if they’re looking for a more human take, they can choose to use platforms that connect them to doctors in real time. Teladoc is a health tech company that believes in the power of convenience, and that people shouldn’t have to physically go to a doctor to receive quality care. Their telehealth solution allows people to speak to over 3,000 licensed physicians via cell phone, web, or mobile app—anywhere and at any time. With more and more people demanding easier and more electronically-advanced methods of communication, it’s encouraging to see companies like Teladoc lead the charge for easier access to medical care.

In addition to the ones cited by this survey, there at least a handful of other technologies which could soon become a standard part of the patient experience.

For example, there’s a lot of excitement about using virtual reality approaches in healthcare. While still at an early stage, VR is poised to change everything in healthcare from health education, patient consults, and even treatment. At present, many of the applications for VR remain experimental, but investment in this sector remains high, and most researchers predict that VR technologies will soon have a major impact on healthcare delivery.

Also, wearable health trackers are evolving from personal wellness tools to devices for collecting and transmitting health data to providers. As a study published early this year noted, providers may soon be able to detect common illnesses by analyzing smartwatch data, which could make diagnoses far more convenient.

The truth is, few consumers are especially interested in health tech innovations, but if a provider can help them get healthier or make it more convenient to get care, they’re on board. Pushing the envelope is fine, but when it comes down to it, patients use technology that just works.