Healthcare News & Insights

Online and mobile health tools aren’t adopted, despite benefits

According to a new report, doctors and their patients aren’t taking advantage of the online health tools that are available to help improve care. 

Web-based health tools — in particular mobile health apps — can have many benefits for patients and healthcare providers, according to a recent report from the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Patients have expressed interest in using those tools — for example, 50% of the patients in one recent survey said receiving text messages, emails or recommendations for smartphone applications from their doctor would help them improve their health.

But engaging patients with online and mobile tools doesn’t just improve their satisfaction — it can also lower costs and increase effectiveness because patients are more likely to take the necessary steps to improve their own health. According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, patients who are more engaged electronically recover from illness and injury faster, choose elective surgeries less often, and require fewer diagnostic tests.

The report separates online health tools into four categories:

  1. Electronic educational resources
  2. Onlein access to medical records
  3. Self-monitoring and tracking tools, and
  4. Online patient communities

But despite the benefits of each of those categories, those tools aren’t widely adopted by doctors or patients. For example, according to the report:

  • 80% of Internet users have looked online for health information — however, just 20% of adults have used an online tool to track their weight, diet or other health indicators or symptoms
  • 32% of patients with online access to their personal health record (PHR) say it’s helped them improve their health — however, various surveys show that only 7-11% of Americans have access to a PHR.
  • Just 26% of patients whose doctors use EHRs have online access to their health information — despite the fact that most patients (80%) who do have that access take advantage of it.
  • 61% of consumers are interested in using a mobile device to track conditions and send information to their doctors — but only 6% have ever done so.

Why aren’t online and mobile health tools being used? On the patient side, barriers may include a lack of awareness about what’s out there, lack of Internet access, low health and technical literacy, and a lack of access provider by their doctor.

And for providers, many of them have privacy and security concerns and fail to perceive a business benefit. Health IT pros can help by educating clinicians on the tools that are available, providing sufficient training on how they work, and educating them on what security controls are in place.

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