Several healthcare technology advancements are converging to deliver significant benefits to patients. According to Accenture research, healthcare consumers show growing use of digital technology for self-service care, and the numbers are rising each year. Compared to 2016, consumers surveyed in England in 2018 say that several technologies have become more important to managing their health, including mobile devices (up from 37 to 48 percent), social media (up from 20 to 28 percent) and wearables (up from 22 to 31 percent).
Patients are increasingly open to intelligent technologies taking on elements of their care, such as medical consultations and monitoring. And they are using self-service digital health tools that go beyond websites.
In some areas, healthcare providers are keeping pace with demand. But when it comes to virtual care, robotics and artificial intelligence (AI), consumer interest is surpassing what providers currently offer. There is an opportunity for providers to differentiate themselves by offering new, technologically advanced services that satisfy consumer interest and expectations.
Healthcare consumers are willing to wear technology to track their fitness, lifestyle and vital signs. Respondents in England are more positive about using wearables in seven out of eight categories measured, compared to 2016. They are also slightly more conservative than respondents in other countries, lagging behind the likes of Singapore and Australia on most wearables measures. However, England’s respondents have shown a marked increase in openness to wearable technology, compared to 2016.
Clinicians, friends and family are still the groups with which respondents in England are most comfortable sharing their wearables data, although respondents have shown a marked increase in willingness to share data with health insurers (up from 40 to 52 percent) and online communities (up from 27 to 37 percent) since 2016. Consumers are least interested in sharing wearable device data with their employers (33 percent) and government agencies (40 percent).
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While the appetite for virtual care in England is increasing, just 13 percent of respondents say they have received virtual healthcare services—the second-lowest of the seven countries surveyed, and five percent below the seven-country average of 18 percent. Like all countries surveyed, quality of care is the least cited advantage of virtual care for England respondents, at just 12 percent.
Preferred applications of virtual care among respondents tend towards practical support, such as reminders to help maintain health or manage ongoing conditions. More clinical interactions, such as engagement with doctors, are the least popular applications for virtual care.
Just seven percent of respondents in England are sure they interacted with AI technology in a healthcare context—a further 12 percent suspect that they might have used an AI driven service or tool, but are not sure whether it would count as AI or not.
This is the lowest adoption rate of the seven countries in the survey. In terms of actual experience—virtual coaching, advisory and diagnostic services are the leading AI applications, but very few in England (four percent or less) have actually used these kinds of services.
Openness to AI, on the other hand, is strong, with virtual AI-based blood testing devices (64 percent), virtual AI coaches to manage wellbeing (52 percent) and virtual nurses to manage conditions, medications and vital signs at home (52 percent) ranking highest among potential applications.
As they are in other technology areas, England respondents are the least open to AI doctor services overall. But they do echo other markets in citing 24-7 availability (51 percent), and time saved by avoiding in-person appointments (40 percent) as the leading reasons to use an AI doctor.