By Karen Taylor and Krissie Ferris, Centre for Health Solutions
Since 2008, the Deloitte US Center for Health Solutions has polled a nationally representative sample of US adults (18 and older) about their experiences and attitudes related to their health, health insurance, and health care.1 Earlier this year we helped the US Center design a global survey to help understand what consumers value most about healthcare, and their appetite for digital innovations, including their willingness to share their personal health data. The US Center collected primary data through an online survey, fielded between May and June 2019, in seven countries (Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands Singapore and the UK). It then compared their responses to responses from the US consumer survey conducted in 2018. The US Centre launched their report on the survey last week.2 This week’s blog is our take on the key findings for the UK.
The results of the 2019 consumer survey offer a unique insight to consumer behavior that can help providers and commissioners to understand the progress and gaps in adoption of digital innovation and where actions is needed to help the UK embrace the ‘Future of Health’.3 Globally, many countries are encouraging the use of digital and other technologies to help consumers take more control of their health. In the UK, although lagging somewhat behind the more consumer–led health care systems, such as the US, the idea of choice and alternative ways of accessing services has become more prevalent. As a result, UK citizens are beginning to display a number of traits relating to consumerism.
UK survey results - using technologies to engage consumers in their own health
Of the 4,165 UK survey respondents, 88% owned a smartphone, 53% of whom said they used it heavily (many times a day) – see Figure 1. Prevalence of ownership and extent of use decreased by age group (98% of 25-34 year olds owned a smartphone and 81% used it heavily, compared to 77% of respondents aged 65+ who owned a smartphone but only 28% used it heavily – many time a day). Interestingly, ownership of tablets (e.g. iPads/Kindles etc.) was similar across the age groups but their use was more frequent in the 55-64 and 65+ age groups (while 14% of 25-34 year olds used tablets heavily, 21% of 55-64 year olds and 20% of people aged 65+ used tablets heavily).
Figure 1. Technology and virtual care
We examined the different responses from the different age groups about their ownership of health technologies (e.g. websites, apps, fitness monitors), the 25-34 year olds were more likely to own one (51% compared to less than 21% of 55-64 year olds and 16% of those aged 65+); younger age groups also reported higher frequency of use. We then asked about specific use over the past year:
- 32% of 25-34 year olds (highest) down to 15% of 55-64 year olds and 17% aged 65+ had used technology to monitor health issues (such as blood sugar, blood pressure)
- around 35% of 18-24 year olds, reducing to 6% of 55-64 year olds (8% aged 65+) received reminders to take medications
- 24% of 25-34 year olds (highest) to 5% and 6% respectively of 55-64 and 65+ measure, record and send data about medications they take
- 38% of both 25-34 and 55-64 year olds and 49% of 65+ had used technology to order repeat prescriptions.
Few UK consumers have had a virtual consultation
Across all age groups, a low percentage of UK respondents had engaged with the health system virtually, such as attending a virtual consultation with a health professional (17%) or checking their health records on-line (20%). Again, this varied by generation bands - see Figure 2.
Figure 2. Virtual consultations
While Seniors were more likely than Baby Boomers or Gen X respondents to have had a virtual health consultation, the most likely were millennials. Moreover, seniors are less likely than any other age groups to have logged onto their doctor’s or hospital’s patient portal to view their health information (7%), again millennials were the most likely group to have done so (22%).
Trust and sharing data
As explored in our report ‘Connected Health: How digital technology is transforming health and social care’,4 technology can connect patients and healthcare providers, leading to better outcomes and a more personalised service through informing/educating, two-way remote monitoring and supporting treatment adherence. Connecting patients and providers depends on being able to share data between the two parties. The consumer health survey found the majority of respondents are at least somewhat willing to share health information (Figure 3).
The primary reason consumers were unwilling to share data was due to privacy concerns (53%), and not knowing what the information will be used for (52%). Our research for our report, Shaping the future of UK healthcare: Closing the digital gap, shows that health care providers need to improve communication with patients about the benefits of sharing data and explain clearly how their data will be used and for what purposes.5 Moreover, that by improving transparency in the use health data there is the potential to build consumer trust and develop a more connected healthcare system.
Although most respondents (74%) were somewhat or very willing to share their health data with a doctor, the majority of respondents have not shared their tracked health data. More than half reported that this was because they did not think their doctor would be interested in the information. Given that most consultations are only for between 7 and 10 minutes the concern that doctors won’t have time to take on board this information is understandable. However the Long Term Plans expectations are that all patients will be able to have a virtual consultation by 2022, educating patients about the benefits of providing relevant health information, and assuring patients that doctors and nurses will review and act on such information, is a key to having a digital first, primary care led healthcare system.
In our 2014 report, Healthcare and life sciences predictions 2020: A bold future, we predicted that patients would become more like consumers, have high expectations of healthcare and the outcomes they get and would be embracing prevention, and devoting time, energy and money to staying healthy.6 At the time it did indeed seem a bold prediction as there was little evidence of this happening at anything like scale. Fast forward to 2019 and our annual consumer health survey provides a wealth of information and insights which demonstrate that UK citizens are now starting to behave more like health consumers. However, there is still a long way to go in realising our prediction. Armed with the results of the survey we can however see where attention is needed and what needs to happen to enable patients to embrace the idea of co-creation and self-care. This is not only key to the vision of a health care system focused more on prevention and wellness than a paternalistic approach based on treating ill health; but is also key to improving health outcomes.
The full, article on Deloitte’s 2019 Global Survey of Health Care Consumers, exploring the results of the 2019 global survey is available to download.