Survey: 40 percent of doctors say they have recommended wearables, only 4 percent of patients say they have

By Jonah Comstock
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A new survey, conducted by Nielsen and commissioned by the Council of Accountable Physician Practices, shows a gap in communications between how much doctors say they are prescribing technology and how patients report that interaction. Nielsen talked to 30,007 US consumers and 626 US physicians for the poll.

“This survey is evidence of the failure of American healthcare to provide coordinated, technologically enabled, high-quality healthcare to the majority of people,” said Dr. Robert Pearl, Chairman of CAPP, said in a statement. “… These findings reinforce CAPP’s long-held belief that patient-centered care models are critical to closing the gaps between what patients need and what they are currently receiving.”

When it comes to self-tracking, 5 percent of consumers say their doctor has recommended an app to track activity, 4 percent reported that their doctor recommended an app to monitor biometrics like heart rate or blood pressure, and 4 percent report their doctor recommended they use a wearable to track activity. Only the wearable number was up from 2015, by just one percent. The others remained level.

There was a large disconnect between patients’ recollections of doctor recommendations and doctor reports of the same. Fifty-two percent of surveyed physicians said, in the last 12 months, they had recommended patients use an app to track physical activity. Forty-five percent recommended a biometric tracking app and 40 percent recommended a wearable. Some of this could be explained by potential survey bias, if physicians who were prescribing this technology were also more likely to participate in the survey.

Nielsen also looked into patient access to patient-doctor communication tools. Additionally, the survey found that 48 percent of consumers report having access to a patient portal, 42 percent have access to online appointment scheduling, and 42 percent can communicate with their doctors via online secure messaging. Here the gap between what patients and doctors said was smaller, and even went in the other direction: 50 percent of doctors said they provided a portal, 27 percent said they provided appointment scheduling, and 30 percent said they offered secure messaging.

Even when patients had access to and were aware of certain communication capabilities, they didn’t necessarily take advantage of them. Twenty-five percent of patients reported having the ability to submit questions to their physicians online; only 14 percent of all consumers surveyed reported using it. Nineteen percent had access to email reminders about medications or health measurements; just 10 percent opted in. And 32 percent had access to text message appointment reminders, but only 21 percent used them.

Similarly, with video visits, 5 percent reported having and using access to video visits, while 7 percent reported having it and not using it. These numbers changed quite a bit when adjusted for demographics. Just 1 percent of respondents 65 and over said they had and used video visits, compared to 10 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds.