July 08, 2014
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Report demonstrates patients’ expectations for physicians, technology

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Catalyst Healthcare Research recently published the results of its second “What’s Reasonable?” study, in which it asked patients about what they expect from physicians and the use of technology in making health care choices.

Respondents were asked questions about internet and mobile device use and whether they might want to communicate with their doctors or obtain health-related information over the internet or by smartphone. Of the 433 respondents, who were aged 21 years or older, 52% reported having a smartphone and 70% reported owning a laptop. Among baby boomers — those aged between 49 and 67 years — 42% reported owning a smartphone, 69% had a laptop and 68% owned a desktop computer. The figures for laptop and smartphone ownership were much higher in the younger age groups, but Catalyst said the overall implication is that mobile technology has been widely adopted across all age groups.

Using the internet to find information about a medical condition or drug was a popular activity, as 80% of all reported doing so, with baby boomers leading the other age groups at 84%. The younger the user, the more likely they were to use the internet to get information about doctors, though 48% of all respondents reported they had. Only 25% of all respondents went online to research the cost of a medical procedure.

Non-medical internet activities included online banking or paying bills, which 82% of respondents said they did, while 70% reported buying clothes or shoes online. Catalyst said the widespread use of internet activity implies that patients may be ready to engage in health care transactions using mobile technology. Using the internet to review or pay a medical bill was preferred by 44% of all respondents, but more so among those aged between 21 and 48 years (55%). However, respondents aged 68 years or older who owned smartphones were 74% more likely to prefer online medical bill pay vs. those of a similar age who did not own smartphones.

Of all respondents, only 36% indicated that they would like to receive lab results online, but 42% and 46% of those aged 21 to 33 years and 34 to 48 years, respectively, wanted online lab results available. The numbers were higher among baby boomers who owned smartphones, suggesting a trend toward a desire to have increased online access to information.

However, making appointments online was not a priority for any age group: only 27% said they would do so. Fewer participants indicated a desire to receive advice online from a doctor after hours — only 14% of the total group.

Notably, 93% of respondents said that they would select a specialist who offered email communication over a specialist who did not, unless the option came at an additional cost.