Digital Health Tools Can Pave the Way to Better Patient Outcomes
Still struggling to find the value in adopting digital health tools? A new study from Deloitte finds tools like clinical apps and virtual assistants could be an important part of the quest to improve patient engagement — which is key to improving health outcomes and succeeding in a value-based care environment.
“As more and more provider organizations are taking on risk on the outcomes that they're delivering versus just the volume of services that they provide, engaging with patients in a number of ways beyond just the transaction of care delivery is critically important to help reduce readmissions and derive better outcomes,” says David Betts, principal and national leader for customer transformation in healthcare for Deloitte Consulting and lead author for the report.
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Patients Have Come to Expect a Digital Experience
Digital health tools, apps in particular, can help providers to reach patients outside of the walls of a healthcare organization to offer further education and engagement, helping people keep up with care plans or simply stay on top of their overall health. This engagement is becoming increasingly important not only in terms of reimbursement with the move to value-based care, but also in order to help leverage a better experience for consumers.
“We live in an experience economy, and healthcare is no different,” says Betts. “By providing the types of tools customers expect in order to interact with their health systems, organizations can differentiate themselves. Experience matters — it matters to the bottom line.”
Healthcare consumers are taking notice, with 92 percent saying that improving customer experience should be a “top strategic priority” for medical providers in the next year, according to a July survey from Black Book Market Research. This is a spike from just 71 percent in 2017.
Moreover, 90 percent of patients in the survey reported that they don’t feel obligated to continue returning to providers that don’t provide a satisfactory digital experience.
This is understandable, since the engagement digital tools can provide can make a world of difference to health outcomes.
“Patients who are more activated in their own healthcare are more likely to adhere to treatment protocols, to do the things that are important to them from a health perspective and that are linked to quality outcomes, better quality of life and better health status,” says Betts.
Provider Access to Digital Data Grows with Consumer Adoption
Moreover, as consumer comfort with tools like wearables and health apps grow, providers also gain access to health data at volumes never before dreamed of.
“This ability to access data about your own consumer performance is what’s driving increased adoption in tools like Fitbits or Apple Watches,” says Betts. And that comfort is expanding as products gain in capability, like Apple Watch’s recent upgrade that allows consumers to take an electrocardiogram via the tech.
As that comfort grows, so does provider access to data that can help them map a more complete picture of a person’s everyday health.
“We're seeing a real interest in accessing that data more proactively than we've seen in the past few years, and in really beginning to experiment with what is possible with respect to that patient-generated data,” says Betts. This also encourages consumers to better understand and engage in a dialogue about their own health data, which can improve interest and outcomes. “It’s an exciting time,” notes Betts.
Think Carefully About Mapping Digital Health Tools
But as digital tools grow in use and importance, it’s also key that providers don’t just try to move all experiences online for the sake of doing so. Instead, they should take extra care to determine exactly what digital tools and capabilities will be helpful to consumers.
“Start from the outside in,” says Betts. “In the healthcare space, we often believe we are the experts in how people should engage with us. We need to understand first how people want to engage with us, and provide the tools they need to solve their issues, not just digitize something. It’s too frequent that we solve our own problems with digital technologies and forget the user’s problems.”