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Study Finds Consumers Are More Engaged, Collecting More Personal Health Data

The number of US consumers tracking their health data with wearables has more than doubled since 2013 while they are also becoming more engaged in their own health care through technology and data sharing, according to new research from the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.

The Deloitte 2018 Survey of U.S. Health Care Consumers surveyed 4,530 US adults to identify trends in health care consumer engagement. The survey found three key touchpoints during a consumer's health care journey where life sciences and health care organizations may want to seek new opportunities for engagement:

  1. when consumers search for care;
  2. when accessing new forms of care (such as at-home testing, diagnosis, and digital tools); and
  3. when sharing personal health information.

These findings could guide life sciences and health care organizations in developing new tools and strategies to help consumers become more engaged in their health, such as technologies that are flexible to change with consumers' needs as they transition through life stages, disease states, and health status.

"Activating consumer engagement at these three touchpoints could be the key to improving patient outcomes and reducing health care costs," says David Betts, principal and national leader for customer transformation in health care at Deloitte Consulting LLP. "We know that patients who are better informed about their condition and are involved in their treatment tend to have better health outcomes and typically incur lower costs."

Seeking Care
The study also revealed that consumers want in-network and convenient health care providers. One-half of those surveyed said making sure a doctor or hospital was part of their health plan's network was one of the most important factors in selecting a health care provider. For 46%, a convenient location was most important.

More consumers are looking up pricing and quality information in 2018. The percentage of those researching cost information has nearly doubled in the last three years from 14% to 27%. Similarly, 53% said they were likely to use a tool to look up quality ratings for specific doctors or hospitals (though only 23% did so in past year). All these findings suggest that consumers are less focused on "bells and whistles" and more on convenience, cost and bedside manner.

New Channels of Care
As the number of digital tools, apps, and at-home diagnostic tests increase rapidly, about one-third of consumers said they are interested in using these tools for identifying symptoms and for health coaching.

These tools may have the potential to improve health outcomes through faster diagnosis, 24/7 access to health coaching, and the ability to recognize mood and lifestyle changes that could improve adherence to treatment plans.

We found interest in using these tools for several purposes. For example, 51% of respondents are comfortable using an at-home test to diagnose infections before seeing a doctor. More than one-third (35%) of respondents said they are interested in using a virtual assistant to identify symptoms and direct them to a caregiver. And a similar amount (31%) are interested in connecting with a live health coach that offers 24/7 text messaging for nutrition, exercise, sleep, and stress management.

"As these tools and tests become more widespread, consumers will need actionable information, including advice from a physician," Betts adds. "Growing consumer interest should spur the development of more at-home tests and tools for many other diseases and health needs."

Tracking and Sharing Personal Health Data
The use of digital devices and tools to monitor health and measure fitness levels has increased significantly over the past five years. For instance, the use of devices to chart fitness and health improvement goals jumped from 17% in 2013 to 42% in 2018. The study also found that 60% of consumers say they are willing to share personal health data from devices with their doctor to improve their health.

Consumers are also becoming more comfortable and engaged with wearables, the study found. Of those who used wearables in the past year, 73% said they used them consistently, which runs counter to past studies that showed that fitness devices were abandoned at a higher rate. This rise in engagement is significant because the data generated from devices has the potential to help improve population health, advance clinical research, and enhance the performance of devices.

— Source: Deloitte