PwC’s Health Research Institute (HRI) releases a new report, Healthcare delivery of the future: How digital technology can bridge the gap of time and distance between clinicians and consumers. The report reveals a shift in attitudes among clinicians, suggesting an increased openness toward using digital technology, and offers detailed recommendations for how healthcare companies, clinicians, and new entrants can harness developing technologies to benefit patients and the industry.
“Digitally-enabled care is no longer nice-to-have, it’s fundamental for delivering high quality care,” said Daniel Garrett, health information technology practice leader, PwC US. “Just as the banking and retail sectors today use data and technology to improve efficiency, raise quality, and expand services, healthcare must either do the same or lose patients to their competitors who do so.”
As part of its research, HRI surveyed 1,000 industry leaders, physicians, nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants, including members of the board of the eHealth Initiative, finding that caregivers and consumers share similar views on how digital technology can:
- Put diagnostic testing of basic conditions into the hands of patients: About 42 percent of physicians are comfortable relying on at-home test results to prescribe medication.
- Increase patient-clinician interaction: Half of physicians said that e-visits could replace more than 10 percent of in-office patient visits, and nearly as many consumers indicated they would communicate with caregivers online.
- Promote self-management of chronic disease using health apps: 28 percent of consumers said they have a healthcare, wellness, or medical app on their mobile device, up from 16 percent last year. Roughly two-thirds of physicians said they would prescribe an app to help patients manage chronic diseases such as diabetes.
- Help caregivers work more as a team: Nearly half of consumers and 79 percent of physicians believe using mobile devices can help clinicians better coordinate care.
“The adoption and integration of digital technology with existing healthcare processes has not yet fulfilled its potential to transform care and value for patients,” said Simon Samaha, MD, Principal, PwC. “The next five years will be critical, with leaders emerging from those who use digital technology to innovate and revamp the interactions between consumers, providers and payers.”
Through its survey and interviews with 25 healthcare executives, HRI found that leaders across health plans, hospitals and the pharmaceutical industry all anticipate major shifts in how care is delivered. However, data-sharing, consumer consent, privacy and security, fragmented workflows and digital investment constitute barriers.
As the report details, HRI’s recommendations for healthcare companies include:
- Generating actionable insights through analytics to yield better outcomes: Analytics will enable caregivers to develop customized care plans for individuals while also managing care for and improving the health of patient populations. They will also help caregivers identify high-risk targets and anticipate problems.
- Using the increasing amounts of data to rethink the workforce and workflows: Providers must tap technology and adjust the workforce to reduce costs and improve quality, rethinking who and how to staff based on technology. Digital technology can be used to ensure physicians are practicing at the top of their licenses and leverage care extenders, such as nurse practitioners, when appropriate.
- Targeting digital interventions for where they make the most sense: Before developing new clinical protocols, health systems must determine where digital interventions are better than traditional, in-office visits based on patients’ specific complaints or conditions.