Pre-COVID-19 digital health adoption stalled
Patients' use of digital tools to manage their health had declined before the pandemic. In fact, almost two-fifths of English patients surveyed (43%) were not using any digital tools to manage their health (highest amongst countries surveyed).
Fewer patients were using digital tools to manage their health
An explosion in virtual care
The pandemic has forced adoption on a massive scale. Patients have avoided in-person doctor visits to such an extent that by the second week of April 2020, GPs were conducting only 7-8 percent of consultations face-to-face—versus 80% in 2019 1.
Factors that could stall progress
Barriers to adoption, though, still ring true. Even as people in England gain confidence in digital tools and services, there is still work to be done to meet expectations for superior digital services. Patients want convenience, quality and data security.
Trust in clinicians remains high
Our pre-pandemic research confirmed that English patients, regardless of age, trust healthcare professionals significantly more than any other source of care advice, including diagnoses by AI-supported physicians, and well above social media accounts from healthcare brands.
Doctors and nurses still command the most trust (by age)
Patients look to providers for motivation to manage their health.
Human/AI care combination erodes trust
The human/AI combination caused trust in physicians to plummet among English patients overall—from 79 % (for physicians alone) to 46 % (for physicians supported by AI). In terms of pure AI decisions, English respondents had less confidence (at 25%) than almost any other country we surveyed.
Trust around the world: Physicians supported by AI
Engaging with digital tools
Pre-pandemic, English patients were significantly less likely than patients elsewhere to use digital technologies to manage their health: 43% said they did not use them, vs 29% in the six other countries surveyed. This may be because healthcare professionals didn’t see their value, or were too busy to engage with such tools.
Room for improvement in performance of digital tools
Access and inclusivity: The keys to success
The pandemic has plainly reinforced patient willingness to engage with digital tools, offering the NHS an opportunity to seize the digital initiative. The keys to success will be access and inclusivity.
Patients want convenience, but also quality
A convenient location and scheduling, plus shorter waiting times, topped the wish list when patients were asked to name the factors that most influence their care choices—and these factors were significantly more important to English patients than to patients elsewhere.
Key features of patient-engaging digital healthcare
To ensure the engagement of all citizens, digital healthcare tools and technologies should be collaborative (developed together with patients), robust (respectful of patient privacy and resilient enough to meet data privacy expectations) and transparent (based on a mutually beneficial exchange of data for service).
(1) Coronavirus: How GPs have stopped seeing most patients in person. Available on this link.