Providers struggling to give patients useful digital tools

Just four in 10 providers say digital technology is being successfully integrated into the overall patient experience, a UPMC survey shows, and when it is, it's mostly basic functionality.
By Nathan Eddy
10:58 AM

Despite patients' high hopes for digital health technologies, the tools they're being offered aren't often keeping pace with those expectations – even as health systems continue to prioritize patient engagement and experience.

These were among the findings of a survey of more than 100 health system professionals by UPMC's Center for Connected Medicine, which also found only a third of respondents believe their organization is providing a top-quality consumer experience with the digital health tools they provide.

The report findings also suggest traditional organizations may be left behind by others who have created a stronger digital experience, with fewer than one in three respondents believing their organization is providing a best-in-class digital experience for patients.

Just four in 10 respondents reported digital tools being successfully integrated into the overall patient experience, and those that are offer mostly basic functions.

"Tools need to be used by patients, integrated with the health system’s existing technology infrastructure such as electronic health records, and provide a robust and user-friendly experience," the report noted.

The survey results indicated the cost to build, buy and maintain digital tools, along with integration difficulties and operational challenges, were among the most common obstacles facing healthcare providers.

Meanwhile, integration of third-party applications has traditionally been difficult due to challenges with interoperability of healthcare data, and respondents said their organizations are planning to invest in tools to address important differentiators such as patient check-in and arrival management and monitoring and managing chronic conditions.

While experience in consumer-facing digital tools is lacking among providers, digital health tools are a priority, with half of respondents saying the implementation digital health tools for patients is a "critical or high" priority for their health system.

Innovation remains a challenge for health systems, according to an earlier study by the Center for Connected Medicine. However, it also found broad support for innovation in the C-suite and that health systems are actively partnering with external parties for technologies and expertise to supplement their strengths.

The top functional areas for innovation at health systems were access, information technology and data analytics, followed by patient and consumer engagement, according to the June 2019 report.

"Patients now assume they’ll have the same digital experience in health care that they get everywhere else in their lives, and they’re dissatisfied when we don’t deliver," said Katie Scott, vice president of digital strategy and innovation, UPMC Enterprises.

"Increasingly, if hospitals and health systems can’t provide a feature-rich and seamless digital experience for their patients, those individuals are going to look elsewhere for care."

Nathan Eddy is a healthcare and technology freelancer based in Berlin.
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Twitter: @dropdeaded209

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