Patient adoption of digital tools is low, but interest is high

According to a new survey conducted by Harris Poll and commissioned by Salesforce, 59 percent of all consumers, and 70 percent of millennials, would choose a primary care physician who offers a patient-facing app over one who doesn’t.

The survey results included 2,025 US adults aged 18 and older, among whom 1,736 have health insurance and a primary care doctor.

The survey showed that by and large, those surveyed aren’t taking ownership of their own health records. Asked how they keep track of their health records, 62 percent said they relied on their doctor to do so. Twenty-five percent used a single patient portal and 15 percent managed their record on two or more portals. Just 6 percent had an independent, personal electronic record, but 29 percent had their own physical method — along the lines of a file folder or shoe box.

Sans titre

Sixty-three percent of those surveyed said their doctor provided some kind of virtual care. Fifty three percent said they had access to a doctor or nurse over the phone, 28 percent over email, and 10 percent via an app or mobile device.

Asked why they valued virtual care, 74 percent said it was for the convenience. Fifty-two percent said it was easier for their schedule, and 33 and 27 percent, respectively, cited the reduced risk of getting sicker and increased privacy.

In addition to the 59 percent that would choose a physician with an app over one without, 60 percent would choose a physician who offers home care over one that doesn’t and 46 percent would choose one who offers virtual treatment options over one who doesn’t. Just 38 percent whould choose a doctor “who uses data from patient’s wearable devices to manage health outcomes” over one that doesn’t, but that number went up to 50 percent for millennials and down to 29 percent for baby boomers.

Millennials were more likely to own a wearable device (39 percent versus 20 percent of boomers) but boomers were more likely to wear it daily (66 percent of boomers versus 43 percent of millennials). Overall, 27 percent of respondents owned a tracker and 55 percent wore it daily. Millennials were most likely to wear theirs a few times a week. Seventy-eight percent said they would want their doctor to have access to the data from their wearable.

Respondents said they would be a little more willing to wear a wearable from their insurer than from their doctor. Fifty percent said they would wear a wearable from their doctor that provided support for managing health in exchange for their data, whereas 53 percent said they would wear a wearable from their insurer that provided lower rates in exchange for their data.

In general, patients were still communicating with their doctors in person and over the phone for most use cases, though millennials were more likely than baby boomers or Gen-Xers to use technology for things like making appointments or checking test results. The interesting exception was prescription refills, which millennials were more likely to do in person, while boomers were more likely to use the phone. Boomers were also more likely than millennials to refill their prescription via a patient portal, email, or snail mail.

Key Report Findings

  • Health insured patients are satisfied with their primary care physicians, but aren’t utilizing modern technologies to connect with them. 
    • Ninety-one percent are satisfied with their primary care physician, but still use traditional channels when communicating with their doctors, such as setting up appointments in-person (23%) or over the phone (76%).
    • When it comes to keeping track of their health records, 62% of health-insured patients rely on their doctors to manage their data, while 29% — including 35% of Baby Boomers (ages 55+) — keep their records in a home-based physical storage location like a folder or shoebox.
    • Nearly half of health-insured patients (48%) report having the same doctor for the past 10 years, yet 33% feel their doctors would not recognize them walking down the street.
  • Patients are supportive of telemedicine and home-health monitoring, and these services are factors in whether they would choose a caregiver.
    • Sixty-two percent of health-insured patients agree that they would be open to virtual care treatments as an alternative to in-office doctor visits, such as video conference calls for non-urgent matters.
    • Fifty-nine percent of all health-insured patients — and 70% of Millennials (ages 18-34) — would choose a primary care physician who offers a patient mobile app (allowing patients to make appointments, see bills, view health data, etc.) over one that does not.
  • Patients want their doctors to have access to their wearable health tracking device data to provide more personalized care.
    • Seventy-eight percent of health-insured patients who own wearables want their doctors to have access to health data from these devices so providers can have more up-to-date views of their health (44%), use health data trends to be able to diagnose conditions before they become serious or terminal (39%), and give more personalized care (33%).
    • Sixty-seven percent of Millennials would be very or somewhat likely to use a wearable health tracking device given to them by their insurance companies in exchange for potentially better health insurance rates based on the data provided by the device.
  • Communication improvements can be made in the post-discharge process.
    • More than a quarter (26%) of health-insured patients have been hospitalized or have had a family member hospitalized within the last two years.
    • Based on these experiences, 61% of these adults say that improvements can be made in the post-discharge process, such as better communication between their primary doctors and other members of their care teams (38%).

Comment on the News

  • “Patients today are choosing their providers, in part, based on how well they use technology to communicate with them and manage their health,” said Joshua Newman, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, GM, Salesforce Healthcare and Life Sciences. “Care providers who build deeper patient relationships through care-from-anywhere options, the use of wearables and better communications post-discharge, will be in a strong position to be successful today — and into the future.”
  • “With the widespread global prevalence of chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, both individuals and healthcare providers need new and innovative ways to reinforce healthier habits and stay connected,” said Amy McDonough, Vice President and General Manager of Fitbit Group Health. There’s a clear opportunity for technology to close the gap on patient and provider communications, and platforms and ecosystems like Salesforce and Fitbit are already helping to make that a reality.”



Additional Resources


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