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Survey: Patients Want Digitally-Connected Docs

October 1, 2015
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Patients nowadays want more digitally-savvy doctors, according to a recent survey from the Arlington, Va.-based health information network Surescripts.

The survey of more than 1,000 U.S. adults, commissioned by Surescripts and conducted by Kelton Global, found that a more digitally-connected doctor would make millions of patients breathe a sigh of relief. Americans reported that they feel doctors using computers or tablets over paper during a visit are organized (70 percent), efficient (70 percent), innovative (40 percent) and competent (33 percent). Practices that have adopted technology to replace outdated methods of administrative tasks, such as scheduling appointments online, provide patients a sense of relief (68 percent), confidence (65 percent) and comfort (55 percent), the survey revealed.

If patients were able to communicate with their doctor via email or text instead of phone only, they would become far more open with their existing doctors. In fact, 51 percent of patients would feel less rushed when asking questions, 46 percent would feel more comfortable asking questions, and 43 percent would reach out to their doctors more often, according to the data.

Interestingly, the survey found that providers who do not take efforts to improve electronic health information sharing could lose patients to others more technically advanced, with 40 percent saying they would be more likely to recommend their doctor to others, and 36 percent saying they would be less likely to switch to a new doctor. If evaluating two comparable doctors, more than half of patients would select a doctor that let them fill out paperwork online before a visit (51 percent), receive test results online (48 percent), store medical records electronically (46 percent), or schedule appointments online (44 percent).

What’s more, when most Americans (55 percent) visit their doctors, their medical history tends to be missing or incomplete, with nearly half of patients (49 percent) noting that their doctor is not aware of what prescriptions they are taking. Further, patients report that their doctor usually does not already know their allergies (61 percent) or existing medical conditions (40 percent), or know about recent surgeries, hospitalizations or visits with other doctors (44 percent). Four in ten Americans note that during most visits to the doctor, the office does not have their personal (40 percent) or insurance (38 percent) information on file.

The lack of electronic communication between doctors and patients places a burden on patients to connect the dots themselves. Because of this, 29 percent of Americans—close to 70 million individuals—fax or physically transport test results, X-rays, or health records from one doctor’s office to another.

Further, unnecessary paperwork and phone calls make Americans dread visiting the doctor more than other everyday tasks, according to survey results. Half of all Americans (50 percent) agree that renewing a driver’s license would require less paperwork than seeing a new doctor for the first time. In fact, Americans are just as likely to be frustrated when filling out paperwork at a doctor’s office (57 percent) as they would be when buying a new car (54 percent). Many Americans would rather call customer service for their bank (34 percent), cell phone provider (27 percent), or credit card company (22 percent) than their health insurance provider.

Despite advancements in digital technology, paper is still persistent throughout healthcare. In fact, many Americans report they frequently or always sign their names on paper forms (55 percent), have their insurance card or ID photocopied or scanned (54 percent), write their personal information on paper forms (33 percent), or write details of their medical history on paper forms (28 percent).

“Dangerous voids in health information sharing can easily be solved through the use of digital communications and technology. This survey proves patients take notice and are ready for a change,” Tom Skelton, Surescripts CEO said in a statement. “As an industry, we need to come together to connect the nation’s healthcare system؅— to enhance the patient experience while improving quality and lowering the cost of care.”

                                                                                                      

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