Digital health reached a tipping point in 2016 as consumers adopted digital health tools at a record rate—46 percent of consumers are now considered active digital health users, up from 19 percent in 2015, according to a survey from investor Rock Health.
Rock Health surveyed 4,000 consumers and found that close to half, 46 percent, used three or more categories of digital health tools, such as telemedicine and wearables, in 2016. Only 12 percent of U.S. consumers are non-adopters, down from 20 percent in 2015.
The survey also gauged consumers’ perspectives on health data digitization and ownership. A majority of Americans are interested in obtaining an electronic copy of their health record, and 20 percent have asked for or downloaded a copy in the last six months. “This broad, consumer-driven push for health data digitization and ownership is ushering healthcare out of the analog era,” the report authors wrote.
Consumers continue to be concerned about the privacy and security of their health data, yet the majority (77 percent) are interested in sharing their health information, especially to get better care from their doctor.
Health data ownership and control is important to consumers, and sharing of healthcare information is seen as acceptable only in specific use cases, the survey found. Nearly 87 percent of those surveyed said that they should be in control of who has access to their health data, and almost 86 percent say they should be told what health data is collected about them. Physicians and family members are the two entities most trusted to keep health data private, while the government and tech companies are the least trusted.
The survey also found that consumer willingness to pay saw a dramatic threefold increase from 2015, with 39 percent of consumers strongly agreeing that they are willing to pay for health expenses out of pocket. This parallels the increase in consumers purchasing high-deductible health insurance plans, which rose from 20 percent in 2014 to 29 percent in 2016, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Even newer consumer technologies such as virtual and augmented reality are being adopted for health uses such as relaxation (7 percent of surveyed consumers), mental health (4 percent), rehabilitation (3 percent) and pain management (3 percent).
With regard to using digital health apps to track their health, the most common metrics recorded using an app are physical activity (44 percent) and heart rate (31 percent). The factors least likely to be recorded in an app are blood pressure (14 percent) and medication adherence (10 percent). Nearly a third of people who downloaded a health app did so because the app was recommended by their doctor.
Nearly a quarter of Americans own a wearable, up from 12 percent in 2015, and the survey found that the most popular wearable device manufacturers are Samsung (30 percent), Fitbit (26 percent), and Apple (22 percent).
Drilling down specifically into telemedicine adoption, the survey results indicate that the most popular telemedicine medium is telephone (59 percent), followed by email (41 percent) and SMS (29 percent).
Across all telemedicine platforms, consumer satisfaction rates are above 75 percent. Consumers who self-pay for the service are more satisfied across the board.
Looking ahead, over a quarter of consumers plan to use live video to receive medical care or electronically send a picture or video to their healthcare provider in the future.