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U.S. Is Lagging Behind in Digital Health Technology Adoption


Telehealth and AI are two of the biggest areas of opportunity in healthcare.

digital tech

Digital technologies could reduce physician workload, reduce burnout and enhance satisfaction. And while American healthcare providers are a leader in leveraging electronic health records (EHRs), the U.S. falls behind the average for the adoption and use of many other digital technologies, according to Royal Philips’ U.S. Future Health Index 2019 report.

As a nation, healthcare professionals aren’t harnessing the potential and support of digital tools that could help make their jobs easier.

Nearly 85% of healthcare professionals in the U.S. use EHRs, but only 46% use telehealth, compared to a 15-country average of 61%. Only 33% use AI-powered solutions in their practice or hospital.

The report noted that telehealth and artificial intelligence (AI) are two of the biggest areas to improve quality and save money in healthcare.

“The Future Health Index 2019 highlights that although technologies can improve access to care and patient outcomes are available today in the U.S., both healthcare professionals and individuals need support to fully leverage technology and more seamlessly integrate it to improve the healthcare experience,” said Vitor Rocha, CEO of Philips North America.

The report represented survey responses from 15 countries — Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Netherlands, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Poland, U.K. and U.S. Approximately 1,000 individuals from the general population of each country, along with about 200 healthcare professionals from each country, completed the survey either online or offline.

In total, the survey included 3,044 healthcare professionals who were either a doctor, surgeon, nurse practitioner, registered nurse, licensed practical nurse or nurse across a variety of specializations. More than 15,000 individuals represented the general population.

Three themes emerged based on the survey responses:

  • Engaged and digitally enhanced healthcare professionals. Those in the U.S. who use technologies like EHRs and telehealth have higher job satisfaction.
  • Does access to data mean more control? Patients who have access to their health data are more likely to engage with the information to improve the quality of care and their overall healthcare experience.
  • U.S. healthcare professionals can learn from others. U.S. healthcare providers can learn from the experiences of digital health technology frontrunners.

Engaging with Digital Health Tools

While U.S. healthcare professionals have access to health technologies, the use in many areas is lagging. And when providers are supported by digital health tools, their experience improves.

American survey respondents who use EHRs reported that the systems have a positive impact on quality of care (51%), healthcare professional satisfaction (32%) and patient outcomes (45%).

Still, the U.S. falls behind in the 15-country average, which reflected 69% for quality of care provided, 64% for healthcare professional satisfaction and 59% for patient outcomes.

Healthcare professionals in the U.S. also advise their patients to track key health indicators.

While patients reported sharing the data with their providers, very few professionals said their patients share the health data collected from digital health technology or mobile health apps.

Despite this, providers see benefits of digital health technologies and medical grade health trackers for themselves and their patients.

And although telehealth adoption is up, 54% of respondents said they do not use any form of these services in their practice or hospital. The 15-country average was 39%.

Top barriers for adoption include cost (45%) and concerns over the accuracy of the technology (41%).

U.S. healthcare providers also use AI less than the 15-country average for interpreting medical images, improving efficiency of patient/staff scheduling, facilitating remote patient monitoring and improving accuracy of diagnosis.

AI has the potential, though, to save the healthcare system approximately $150 billion in annual savings by 2026, according to the findings of a 2017 Accenture study.

How Health Tech Impacts the Patient Experience

American patients said that through health technology and being able to manage their own health, patient and provider experience could improve.

A majority (61%) of American patients said they receive appointment reminders and more than half (54%) said it’s easier to get test results.

And those who have access to their EHRs reported better personal experiences (92%) and better quality of care (88%) than those who do not have access. Those without access reported their experiences at 80% and 83%, respectively.

Learning from Leading Digital Health Adopters

China (85%) and Germany (41%) both use AI technologies more than U.S. healthcare professionals, even though America has one of the highest spends of AI in healthcare for preliminary diagnosis per capita at $0.06. China’s spend is $0.002 per capita and Germany’s is $0.03.

Researchers found that telehealth adoption is higher among healthcare providers in countries with low physician density, like China. In China, there are nearly 2 physicians for every 1,000 patients, so adoption is at 89%. In America, there are nearly three physicians for every 1,000 people and only 46% of physicians said they adopted telehealth services.

“Through intense collaboration and co-creation of solutions, we can help healthcare professionals and patients benefit, drive adoption rates and deliver on the Quadruple Aim in healthcare: better outcomes, improved patient and staff experience and lower costs,” Rocha said.

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