July 29, 2016

By Mark Brohan

A new survey of digital healthcare use reveals Baby Boomers more than other segments of the population are using self-service web tools to manage their healthcare affairs.

The survey of 1,443 consumers by CareCloud Corp., a developer of cloud-based healthcare information technology software and services for doctors, finds that 62% of Baby Boomers—individuals between the ages of 51 and 69—use the web to access and update their electronic health records compared with 58% for mature users (age 70 and above), 54% for Generation X (age 35 to 50) and 48% for Millennials (age 18 to 34).

More Baby Boomers—50%—also use digital healthcare tools to request prescription refills online vs. matures at 46%, Generation X at 36% and Millennials at 31%. At 43% Baby Boomers also use the web and digital healthcare tools to contact a healthcare provider with a question compared with 42% for Millennials and 34% for Generation X and mature patients, respectively.

“Boomers are the group most likely to take advantage of digital healthcare tools,” the survey says. “They are viewing online medical records, requesting prescription refills and contacting their providers with follow-up questions.”

The CareCloud survey notes that consumers are still slow to rate or review their doctor online. Only 26% of survey respondents had completed an online provider review vs. 74% that had not. Patients also rely on a variety of sources to find a physician but the biggest group—42%—use the web site of their health insurer to find a doctor within that network.

In contrast only 11% of consumers use an online search or a ratings and review web site to find a physician compared with 4% who go to a physician’s web site or blog and just 1% who find doctors on social networks like Facebook.

“Given that patients have financial incentives to align provider choice with insurance coverage, it is unsurprising that plan/payer web sites are identified as the top resource,” the survey says. “Medical practice web sites and social media efforts lag far behind other factors influencing patient choice.”

To communicate with their doctor, 35% of consumers prefer doing so using an online patient portal. That compares with 29% preferring to use the phone, e-mail at 21%, mobile app at 8% and text messaging at 7%.

“Digital communication is gaining traction as patients preferred method of contact with their providers outside of office visits,” the survey says. “Millennials are twice as likely as those in other age groups to switch providers in order to access online financial and medical records.”


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