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Health IT adoption lags due to lack of patient interest

Kenneth Corbin | June 17, 2016
New Nielsen survey highlights slow rate of adoption and interoperability in health technology as patients don’t see the value of online scheduling, mobile apps and EMRs.

For all the promise surrounding health IT, the adoption of new technologies to improve coordination between patients and care providers remains sluggish, according to new research from Nielsen Strategic Health Perspectives.

In a survey of slightly more than 30,000 consumers and 626 physicians, Nielsen found only modest upticks in the use of technology in the healthcare arena, and also highlighted the stubborn tendency of providers to operate in siloes, rather than embrace the model of coordinated care that many health reform advocates are championing.

"This survey is evidence of the failure of American healthcare to provide coordinated, technologically enabled, high-quality healthcare to the majority of people," Robert Pearl, chairman of the Council of Accountable Physician Practices, which sponsored the research, said in a statement.

CAPP promotes broader use of health IT

CAPP is a consortium of medical groups that have embraced a coordinated model of care that brings together specialists of various disciplines in what it bills as a holistic, patient-centric model, a vision that sees the broader and more effective use of health IT as critical.

At a media event announcing the new research, CAPP Executive Director Laura Fegraus explained that the hallmarks of so-called accountable care organizations include coordination among a patient's team of care providers, an emphasis on prevention and evidence-based medicine, and around-the-clock access to a provider for the patient.

"All of these things are enabled by robust information technology," Fegraus said, "beyond having a computer in the office."

In the latest survey, Nielsen describes patients' electronic engagement with physicians as "increasing but still low," with the proportion of respondents who say they have some type of digital access to their providers hovering between 20 percent and 30 percent. Many of those means of access are rather low-tech, such as email or text reminders for appointments or the ability to submit a medical question through an online channel, with adoption still dragging in part because of the privacy and regulatory restrictions on the flow of sensitive health information. Meanwhile, higher-tech means of delivering care like mobile apps and video consults remain at the margins.

"We definitely see some progress here," said Jennifer Colamonico, vice president of healthcare insights at Nielsen, referring to the modest uptick in the use of health IT over last year's survey.

At the same time, she highlighted the adoption challenge, noting that many patients in the survey said that their care providers offer technology such as online appointment scheduling or text or email reminders, but that they choose not to use them.

"It's not just a matter of having the technology, but it's actually an issue of using it. It's the sort of the old adage of 'if you build it they will come' may or may not apply in healthcare technology." Colamonico said. "Many people are not using the technology that they actually have access to, which creates a different set of barriers to solve."


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