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How Tech Savviness Can Determine If a Patient Will Use Digital Health Services


Participants with more confidence in their technology capabilities are more likely to accept digital health services.


People with high confidence in machine performance and their own technological skills are more likely to accept and use digital health services and providers, according to new research presented at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Glasgow, Scotland.

The analysis found that belief in the machine's ability to solve solutions, “power user” status and degree of privacy concerns are significant predictors of three user experience variables: Attitude towards a chat agent, attitude towards a chat service and behavioral intention towards the chat service. The higher the power usage — how willing and competent a person is with technology — the higher their belief in machine heuristic.

“We found that the higher people’s beliefs were in the machine heuristic, the more positive their attitude was toward the agent and the greater their intention was to use the service in the future,” said S. Shyam Sundar, co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory at the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications at Pennsylvania State University.

The research team recruited 283 participants from the TurkPrime Panel service and conducted a three-by-three between-subjects factorial online experiment. The team looked at three avatar types (human, machine and avatar) at three different roles (receptionist, nurse and doctor).

An online chat interaction tested the effects of the source and user attributes in autonomous healthcare facilities. Each participant interacted and disclosed information to one of the nine website prototypes. The team framed interactions as an annual physical to assess how users would respond to patient intake being conducted by an automated agent.

Patients then answered 21 health-related questions through an online chat interaction. Following the visit, the participants answered questions related to their experience with the automated agent and chat service.

To measure the users’ belief in machine heuristic, participants answered six questions, including, “When machines, rather than humans, complete a task, the results are more accurate.” To measure power usage, participants answered 12 questions to identify expert users.

“Our results suggest that the key to implementing automation in healthcare facilities may be to design the interface so that it appeals to expert users who have a high belief in machine abilities,” Sundar said.

Automation in healthcare facilities could be more cost-efficient for the user and allow better access to rural populations, according to the study authors. Digitization and process automation could also lead to physicians having more time to spend with patients that need extra care or attention.

“Doctors are limited by their human bandwidth, by their experience, knowledge and even state of mind from minute to minute,” Sundar said. “In contrast, machines can be programmed to ‘think’ of all the possible conditions that a patient’s symptoms could point to, and they never get tired.”

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