Patients Not Willing to Sacrifice Physician Face Time for Tech

August 24, 2012

Study of 1,100 U.S. patients revealed the majority love using technology to improve their own health and connect with doctors.

While patients appreciate those physicians who can connect electronically - so they can do everything from access lab reports online to make or change appointments via their smartphones - that doesn’t mean they want to see less of their doctor during in-person visits.

In an online survey conducted by Accenture of 1,100 U.S. patients between March 30 and April 4, 90 percent of respondents said they want to manage their healthcare with technology, but nearly half (46 percent) are unaware if their health records are available electronically. The survey also found that 83 percent of patients want access to personal medical information; 72 percent want to book, change, or cancel appointments electronically; and 72 percent want to request prescription refills.

The majority of patients want to take advantage of self-service options through other channels, such as e-mail and mobile devices. Eighty-eight percent of respondents said they want to receive reminders via e-mail when it is time for preventative or follow-up care, while 63 percent want such reminders sent to their mobile phone.

The business takeaway, said Kaveh Safavi, North America managing director of Accenture’s health industry, is that there’s a case to be made for electronic tools that enhance patient-physician interaction, such as patient portals.

However, Safavi told Physicians Practice the survey also showed that patients don’t want to lose face time with their doctors. And that oftentimes physicians don’t always do a good job of informing patients of the services available online.

“What we were particularly looking at right now was the gap between patient desire and what’s actually available,” said Safavi. “While they want the ability to interact electronically with their healthcare system, they don’t want to give up the ability to interact with their doctor.”

When asked, “Do your doctors provide you online access to the following information services?” about one out of three patients surveyed did not know whether services such as bill pay, electronic reminders, and lab results were available to them online.

Because the survey was conducted online, that might lead one to believe that only the most tech-savvy patients would answer it. However, Safavi said other research he’s seen indicates that Accenture’s study is consistent with what he’s seen in other research.

It should be noted, however, that there are geographical differences in patients’ desire for online access. The study revealed that patients who primarily live in rural areas are less likely to want their records available online.