Healthcare professionals are moving to a digital health future but with some major obstacles in their way, according to results of a survey of 1,000 doctors, nurses and other providers released Tuesday by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PDF).
Providers are increasingly using technology in their healthcare decisions. The survey found that in 2014, 32% are reviewing images on their phones compared with 7% in 2010. In addition, 20% are now using mobile devices to receive data from a medical device compared with 11% in 2010, and 12% are using mobile devices to handle clinical consults in a different location than the patient.
Providers also are becoming comfortable relying on patient's use of do-it-yourself tests, administered at home, to prescribe medication, particularly for pictures of skin problems (48%) and urinalysis tests done with a phone-based device (47%).
Providers see virtual visits in their futures. Within the next five years, half of surveyed providers said that virtual visits will replace 10% of their scheduled office visits. An additional 37% think a third of their office visits will be replaced by virtual visits. Providers' confidence comes despite only half of physicians providing virtual visits getting paid for such consultations.
The PwC report notes favorably that Massachusetts General Hospital has been pushing use of remote care for dermatology and burns. For burn victims, using a virtual visit to monitor patients at a rehabilitation hospital remotely often results in a mere 20-minute visit compared with a daylong transfer from the rehab facility to the main hospital.
A lack of reimbursement, regulatory problems with state licensure preventing doctors from practicing across state lines, and a lack of data exchange are all cited as obstacles to increased use of technology. Roughly 70% of surveyed providers say they don't share information outside their practice. Indeed, only 57% of clinicians say they share data within their own practice.
There's one area that providers downplay, relative to executives: data analytics. Executives interviewed for the report say that data analytics to predict conditions or readmissions will be highly important for the healthcare system, but providers aren't sure. Only 17% of clinicians say such analytics are currently important while 37% believe they'll be important in five years.
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