A global online survey of doctors released by market research agency Cello Health Insight has indicated that although UK doctors are pioneering the use of digital technology to assist them in their jobs, they are reluctant to recommend health apps to their patients.
With new organisations such as Google Health, Apple Health, Microsoft HealthVault and IBM ‘Watson’ entering the sector, the role of digital technology in healthcare is increasing.
The survey’s authors believe doctors are perfectly placed to report from the front line on how digital technology such as connected devices, mobile apps and wearables are impacting healthcare quality and efficiency, and how it can potentially help them to make better patient care decisions.
The report reveals that 62% of doctors say patients often attend surgery with a self-diagnosis from web research, with 40% saying that patients often specifically request named prescriptions discovered from online research – although there is significant geographical variation in this figure, which rises to 65% in Italy and 45% in the US, while the UK sits lower than the global average at 28%.
It also showed more than eight in 10 (82%) UK doctors regularly use their smartphone at work for professional purposes. Smartphone use by UK doctors is higher than in the other European countries surveyed (Italy, France, Spain and Germany) and the United States. Only in the emerging markets of China and Brazil is use higher.
However, despite embracing digital technology themselves, only 36% of doctors are likely to recommend a mobile health app to patients in the future, and just one in ten doctors globally own a fitness band – with only half of those using it regularly at work.
Paul Mannu, director at Cello Health Insight, comments: “What is really interesting is how digital technology is bringing healthcare professionals closer to patients. One of the websites that doctors are accessing most is www.patient.co.uk, which is primarily designed for patients and includes large sections dedicated to patient-led forums. These sites are giving doctors an opportunity to listen to the voice of patients – and in turn empowering patients with information so they can be more involved in – and have more control over – decisions about their own healthcare.”
He adds: “Doctors might actually see online diagnosis prior to the consultation as an opportunity, especially in cases such as the unnecessary prescribing of antibiotics, where by adapting their approach to encourage patients to proactively look up treatment options could support the doctor’s recommendation not to prescribe them.”