Accenture Health research shows that patients are increasingly using digital health technologies—electronic health records (EHRs), wearables and apps—to manage their health. Compared to two years ago, more US patients with EHRs are accessing their records, 45 percent in 2016 vs. 27 percent in 2014. They are also more informed about what information is available to them in their EHR. In 2016, 65 percent with EHRs said they know what data they have access to in their EHR compared to 39 percent in 2014.
But while more US patients with EHRs are accessing those records, they have specific thoughts about who else should be able to access those records. They view their EHR as a tool for their primary doctor (75 percent) or themselves (67 percent), not to be accessed by others, unless they provide permission. Very few (3 percent) consumers believe their employer, government (3 percent) or a retail clinic (9 percent) should be able to access their health record. Most (92 percent) patients believe they should have full access to their records, while only 18 percent of physicians share this belief.
High-tech and hands-on
In addition to more consumers accessing their EHR, those who use technology to manage their health have doubled their use of health apps and wearables in the last two years. Thirty-three percent of US consumers are using health apps in 2016, compared to 16 percent in 2014. The most popular among all app users are Fitness (59 percent) and Diet/Nutrition (52 percent) apps.
Use of wearables has risen from 9 percent in 2014 to 21 percent in 2016. Although healthcare consumers of all ages are using digital health technologies, individuals aged 18-34 are the most prevalent users of both apps (48 percent) and wearables (26 percent).
Ready to share
Healthcare consumers aren’t just using digital for their own benefit—they’re willing to share the data they capture when tracking their health. Most consumers are willing to share wearable or app data with a doctor (90 percent) or nurse (87 percent)—and 40 percent of health app users have already done so. Willingness to share wearable or app data drops when it comes to health plans (63 percent) or employers (31 percent).
Plugged in to the future
The apparent spike in US healthcare consumer use of digital health technologies shows that patients are increasingly using digital tools to manage their health. This desire for a heavier dose of digital presents opportunities for providers to invest in digital tools and develop strategies to adapt to consumers’ expectations and thereby close the gap between what patients demand and what providers deliver.