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Report: U.S. Still in Early Stages of Leveraging Connected Care to Promote Healthcare Integration

June 10, 2016
by Heather Landi
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A new report indicates that the U.S. healthcare system does well when it comes to patient access to healthcare and connected care technology adoption, yet lags with regard to healthcare integration.

According to the Future Health Index report published by Royal Philips, while healthcare system integration is recognized as important and beneficial in the U.S., it is still in its early stages. “Additionally, although interest in connected care technology is high, the U.S. is not yet taking advantage of opportunities to realize the full benefits of these devices in powering integrated healthcare, signaling areas of improvement and opportunities for radical change in the American healthcare system,” the report authors wrote.

The Future Health Index (FHI) report is an international study exploring how 13 countries around the world are positioned to meet long-term global health challenges through integration and connected care technologies.  The FHI measures the perceived readiness of 13 key countries to realize the benefits of integration and connected care by assigning each a score out of 100 based on three criteria—healthcare access, connected care technology adoption and healthcare integration.

According to Royal Philips, the report measures the attitudes and opinions of patients, healthcare professionals and industry thought leaders in order to identify key areas where digital innovation has the potential to improve not just the provision of healthcare, but overall health and well-being.

The U.S. ranked 6th out of 13 countries, with a score of 57.4. The 13-country average was 56.45. While the US scores just above average on healthcare access (68.4) and connected care technology adoption (49), it falls below average on healthcare integration (54.7), indicating potential missed opportunities to leverage connected care technology to promote integration of the health system.

A few of the key highlights of the report:

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) ranks highest on the FHI, Japan lowest

The UAE leads the other countries on the index by a significant margin due to positive views on the current state of integration throughout the health system and patient and healthcare professional readiness to adopt technology—43 percent of UAE patients feel the health system is very or completely integrated. Japan, meanwhile, is stifled by a perceived lack of access to health services and a perceived lack of knowledge regarding connected care—just 27 percent of Japanese patients say they have access to the information and resources they need to live healthily.

Developed countries score better in terms of access; emerging countries rank high with technology adoption

Three-quarters (76 percent) of healthcare professionals in developed countries agree their patients have access to the treatments needed for current and future medical conditions, versus just over half of those in the emerging countries polled. However, some emerging countries, such as South Africa and the UAE, appear to be leading the way in terms of connected technology adoption.

Patients and healthcare professionals are divided about patients’ ability to monitor themselves

Technology is making it easier for patients to track their health indicator and a majority of patients surveyed feel they have the tools (56 percent) to manage their own health effectively. However, less than half of healthcare professionals (46 percent) agree that the patients have the knowledge and tools necessary to manage their own health.

Data is proliferating, but doesn’t travel

Sharing data between institutions or agencies is a key step in integrating healthcare. Yet despite progress towards universal medical records in some countries, the vast majority of patients (74 percent) report having to repeat the same information to multiple healthcare professionals, and most (60 percent) have also experienced repeatedly taking the same tests. Many patients also have yet to share data from connected technology with their healthcare professionals even though two-thirds (60 percent) own or use the technology.

Connection comes at a cost

The investments required to encourage the adoption of connected technology are a concern across developed and emerging countries, and are shared by the patient and healthcare professional populations. Half of healthcare professionals and patients (52 percent and 51 percent, respectively) believe connected care technology would increase the cost of healthcare overall. There are also concerns about the resources needed, such as training and data security.

“These findings also indicate that even if relevant health data is being collected, it is not being examined by a professional who could potentially deliver recommendations and discuss observations that could positively impact an individual’s health. Further validating that today’s connected devices need to move beyond lifestyle products and support collaboration and better health management,” the report authors stated.

In addition, in order to explore how integrated, coordinated care will impact the future of U.S. healthcare, Philips partnered with the Institute for the Future (IFTF) to examine the market perceptions that are impacting the FHI findings, as well as the future forces that will impact what the future of U.S. health might look like in 2026.

IFTF highlighted three key forces that will inform and influence patient and provider views on access, integration and technology adoption over the next decade:

Flipped Care: Access to healthcare will change from provider-centered to person-centered where encounters between patients and the healthcare system will occur virtually and in new consumer-directed settings.

Integrative Health Systems: A system of health that will include the external factors well beyond the walls of the clinic or hospital: housing, family support, food, wealth and education.

Encoded Intuition: A shift in technology from assistive to empowering devices that will rely heavily on the patient’s willingness to take a proactive role in managing their health.

 

 

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