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July 28, 2016

Written by Sara Heath

New research shows that patients are interested in health IT tools that will help boost their patient engagement and improve their satisfaction with their providers.

Health IT tools for patient engagement have captured the interest of a majority of patients looking to enhance their care experience, says a recent poll from Care Cloud.

The survey, which queried patients about their technology use, shows that patients are most interested in accessing their healthcare records, with 73 percent of respondents reporting that increased data access may improve their patient experience.

Seventy-five percent of respondents also expressed interest in digital prescription refills, and 61 percent would like  online bill pay capabilities.

Patient portals were the most highly desired technology platform.  Thirty-five percent of patients prefer patient portals, while 29 percent prefer phone calls, 21 percent prefer email, eight percent prefer mobile apps, and seven percent prefer secure text messages.

Generational differences had an effect on patients’ patient engagement technology use. In contrast to previous research, baby boomers proved to be the most robust users of patient engagement technology.

Sixty-two percent of baby boomers use technology to access their health records, while 50 percent engage with health IT tools to request prescription refills, and 43 percent to ask their providers care-related questions.

While baby boomers proved to be the most active users of patient engagement technologies, the survey shows that other age groups utilize these tools, as well. Fifty-nine percent of mature patients (ages 66 and older) use technology to access their health records, while 42 percent of millennials reported using technology to communicate with their providers.

Although baby boomers report using patient engagement technologies most frequently, the quality and availability of health IT tools can make or break the care experience for millennials. Millennials are two times more likely to switch providers if they don’t grant access to a patient portal.

Patients approve of provider use of technology in the office, too. Half of respondents said provider EHR use has no impact on their doctor’s visit, while 30 percent said EHR use was at least somewhat positive. Only 15 percent of respondents said EHR use negatively impacted their patient experience.

Patient experience reports are also finding a home online, with a quarter of patients posting an online review of their physician or hospital.  Eleven percent of patients say they consult online reviews before selecting a provider. This data indicates that patient experience – and subsequent patient reviews – have an effect on a provider and her practice.

Overall, this report demonstrates the digital shift healthcare is taking and shows that patients are receptive.

“While the move to digitize healthcare has created a seismic shift in the practice of medicine, patients have not been negatively impacted,” the report says. “In fact, there has been broad enthusiasm from patients surrounding digital health technology.”

Care Cloud executives say this research indicates the importance of digital health in improving patient experience.

“The patient experience is dramatically transforming,” said Ken Comée, Care Cloud’s CEO. “Not only are one-third of patients reporting a positive impact of technology on their care, but patients of all ages are actually embracing digital online patient engagement tools, from scheduling appointments to accessing their medical records and making online payments.”

The results also have important implications on hospital profitability, Comée said. Providers facing lower patient satisfaction and retention rates can boost them through health IT adoption.

“As the patient journey becomes more complex, online resources enable healthcare consumers to manage costs, maximize convenience, and access information that informs and empowers their choices,” the Care Cloud report concludes. “Providers who align their practices with these trends can position themselves for continued growth and success.”

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