Digital health adoption saw a dip before COVID-19, but the pandemic brought it into limelight

A new consumer report from Accenture found that rates of smartphone-app and wearable use have slightly declined over the last two years.
By Laura Lovett
01:27 pm

It’s no secret that a global pandemic dialed up digital adoption. But a new study out of Accenture points out that prior to the lockdown consumer adoption of these tools had slowed, and warns that players in the digital health space must be cognizant of consumer concerns. 

“While digital healthcare has accelerated, we found that the themes of our 2020 research still ring true: Consumers are interested in virtual services, but a cumbersome digital experience turns them off,” authors of the report wrote. “Concerns over privacy, security and trust remain, along with difficulty integrating new tools and services into day-to-day clinical workflows.”


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Accenture’s research showed that the consumer adoption of digital tools had fallen from its 2018 study. For example, in 2018, 48% of consumer-survey-takers reported that they used a smartphone or tablet to manage their health, whereas at the beginning of 2020 that rate dropped to 35%. The rate of wearable use also dropped from 33% in 2018 to 18% at the start of 2020. 

Researchers found that rates had the sharpest drop among younger generations. For example, it points out that smartphone apps went from a 63% adoption rate among those ages 18-34 in 2018 and fell to 50% in 2020. 

The report goes on to note that after their research was conducted, telemedicine companies saw skyrocketing adoption. For example, Amwell reported a 2,000% increase in direct-to-consumer telemedicine app visits from January to March 2020. However, the report notes that privacy concerns and digital ease could impact a user’s decisions in the future. 

“Barriers to adoption could still impede progress. Even as consumers gain confidence in digital tools and services post-pandemic, there is still work to be done to meet expectations for superior digital services,” authors of the report wrote. “Amid the pandemic, consumers with nowhere else to turn were forced to lower their expectations for the quality of digital health experiences. But as things normalize, we believe that consumers will revert to prior expectations.”


This year the digital health industry has not only expanded its user base, but also its financial one. According to Rock Health, six months into 2020 investors have poured a record-shattering $5.4 billion in the digital health industry. 

In the report researchers noted that they had expected a major slowdown in funding due to the coronavirus pandemic, which initially happened. But at the tail end of Q2 there was a major upswing.


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