Even though emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, robots, virtual assistants and various forms of machine learning are just now being implemented in various forms across the U.S. healthcare system, patients see advanced use of technology as being beneficial in delivering care.

Consumer demand for digital healthcare is growing, and not just for routine tasks like booking appointments. Consumers as patients also want to use digital healthcare, artificial intelligence and robots for more advanced care, such as for diagnosing an illness.

Those are the chief takeaways from an annual survey on digital healthcare trends from Accenture Consulting. The survey of 2,301 consumers also shows that consumers are increasingly using a variety of digital self-service tools for managing their health.

For instance, the percentage of consumers using mobile and tablet health apps has tripled over the past four years, from 16% in 2014 to 48% today. The use of patient portals is on the rise with more than four in 10 respondents (44%) using a portal to access their electronic health records (EHRs) over the past year, primarily to get information on lab and blood-test result, Accenture says.

67% of consumers have used a portal in the past year and their main reason for doing so was to access their electronic medical record to check out a lab result. Other reasons consumers used health portals was to view physician notes regarding medical visits (55%) and view their prescription history (41%).

Similarly, the use of wearable devices by consumers has nearly quadrupled in the past four years, from just 9% in 2014 to 33% in 2017. Roughly three-fourths of consumers view wearables—such as those that monitor glucose, heart rate, physical activity and sleep—as beneficial to understanding their health condition at 75%, engaging with their health (73%) and monitoring the health of a loved one 73%., Accenture says.

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“What’s different this year than past years is that acceptance of digital healthcare by consumers is at a tipping point,” says Accenture managing health director Brian Kalis. “It’s starting to move into the mainstream.”

More consumers now see technology as part of getting and using healthcare services. For example, 75% of consumers see technology as an important component of managing their health, according to the Accenture survey.

Patients in general are pleased with the level of service. 74% of patients say they were satisfied with their experience via digital healthcare, but 47% of survey respondents would prefer an immediate virtual appointment over a delayed regular office visit, Accenture says.

Even though emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, robots, virtual assistants and various forms of machine learning are just now being implemented in various forms across the U.S. healthcare system, patients see advanced use of technology as being beneficial in delivering care.

Consumers are more readily adopting technology that automates processes or judgments, Accenture says. Nearly one in five consumers (19% have used health services that are powered by artificial intelligence, such as virtual clinicians and home-based diagnostics. Consumers say they are likely to use a variety of intelligent health technologies, including home devices that test blood for a variety of indicators (66%), intelligent virtual health assistants (61%) and virtual nurses that monitor their health condition, medications and vital signs at home (55%). “Consumers increasingly expect to use digital technologies to control when, where and how they receive care services,” says Kaveh Safavi, who leads Accenture’s global health practice.

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