With a growing interest in gaining more access to digital healthcare services, consumers want healthcare organizations to offer them more tools, including more telehealth.

Consumers like digital healthcare delivery and are using and wanting more of it, says a new survey from Ernst & Young.

The survey of 2,455 consumers, 152 physicians and 195 executives by Ernst & Young also finds that patients are willing to share more health information if doing so results in helping them stay healthy, get treated when they are sick or reduces healthcare costs and red tape.

More than 50% of consumers surveyed now have a comfort level in contacting their physician digitally and already have begun utilizing available technologies to develop a better relationship with their doctor. 63% of consumers have used mobile apps and wearables to track health- or exercise-related information daily or weekly in the past 12 months, with 60% indicating they would share this data if it would assist physicians in treating them. 25% of consumers also are currently going online to complete forms and schedule appointments, says Ernst & Young.

More than 50% of consumers surveyed now have a comfort level in contacting their physician digitally.

With a growing interest in gaining more access to digital healthcare services, consumers want healthcare organizations to offer them more tools, including more telehealth. For example, 36% of consumers are interested in utilizing at-home diagnostic kits such as for genotyping, while 33% are interested in using smartphone-connected devices to send information to their physicians and 21% of consumers are interested in having video consultations with their physician.

“Similar to their experience in other industries, such as retail and transportation, consumers today expect their interaction with the health system to be supported by technology and are open to more digital interaction,” says Rachel Hall, Ernst & Young’s health advisory partner and health digital offering leader.

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More physicians, it seems, also see a big upside to digital healthcare technology. 74% of physicians feel that patient portals, where users can manage appointments and refill prescriptions, will be beneficial, and 71% of doctors also indicate that the use of personal, sensor-based technology will have a positive impact. 83% of physicians said that consumer-generated data from phone apps and sensor devices could support care coordination across providers and enable more personalized care plans, says Ernst & Young.

Two-thirds (66%) of physicians anticipate a reduced burden on the healthcare system and associated costs, and 64% of physicians think technology that captures consumer-generated data will reduce the burden on doctors and nurses specifically, which will have a positive impact on burnout. “Physicians show support for the idea that the right technologies can improve patient outcomes,” says Ernst & Young’s U.S. Health Leader Jacques Mulder.

Consumers still have concerns over the privacy and security of their electronic health records, but appear willing to share more information. 40% of consumers are very or extremely interested in allowing healthcare professionals to access their medical history for treatment planning—this includes data on symptoms, medication, biometric data (e.g., blood sugar) and treatment history. 54% of consumers would share grocery-shopping habits, and 60% indicated they would share tracked exercise and activity data.

Other report findings include:
• Consumers indicated that reduced waiting times (61%) followed by cost savings (55%) provided the biggest incentive to increase digital engagement with their physicians.
• 26% of consumers say the ability to receive tailored diet and exercise plans also would encourage engagement with digital technology.
• Nearly three-quarters (74%) of consumers surveyed indicated they would be open to sharing lifestyle information if it would help physicians treat them more comprehensively.

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