Stanford Medicine: Physicians, medical students are interested in digital health, data-driven care

More often than not, survey respondents said that patient data collected using apps, wearables or other consumer-friendly sources are clinically valuable.
By Dave Muoio
02:46 pm

Data and digital health tech were the focus of Stanford Medicine’s 2020 Health Trends Report.

Released late last week, the research survey of more than 700 physicians, residents and medical students found that many of these respondents are looking forward to incorporating these new tools into their practice.

“We found that current and future physicians are not only open to new technologies but are actively seeking training in subjects such as data science to enhance care for their patients,” Dr. Lloyd Minor, dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine, said in a statement. “We are encouraged by these findings and the opportunity they present to improve patient outcomes. At the same time, we must be clear-eyed about the challenges that may stymie progress.”


Among the respondents, 47% of physicians and 73% of medical students said that they are currently seeking out additional training to prepare for these kinds of data and digital health innovations. Advanced statistics and data science (44%) and population health management (36%) courses were among the most sought out by medical students taking additional classes, while genetic counseling (38%) and artificial intelligence (34%) won out among physicians.

Alternative data sources such as wearables and health tracking apps were also on the minds of these respondents. Nearly half of the survey’s physicians (44%) residents (50%) and students (47%) said they actively use a health monitoring device themselves, and more often than not said that they incorporate these data into their own personal healthcare decisions.

Even more students and physicians said that they would consider data from health apps (78%, 80%), wearables (79%, 83%) and consumer genetic tests (63%, 65%) to be at least somewhat clinically valuable.

With all that being said, a fair portion of these respondents did not feel like their current or prior medical education effectively prepared them for the implementation of these types of technologies. Specifically, 23% of students said their education was either “not very helpful” or “not helpful at all,” with only 18% reporting their teachings to be “very helpful” in regard to these tools. Those same response rates for practicing physicians were 44% and 19%, respectively.


To put together the report, Stanford Medicine commissioned Brunswick Insight to conduct a nationwide survey of 523 physicians, 133 medical residents and 77 current medical students. All of these respondents were reached between September and October of 2019 using the American Medical Association’s list of verified physicians. Each was compensated for their time, and provided the opportunity to opt out of any questions included in the survey.


The results published in the report offer a complementing provider perspective to another survey released last year by Stanford and Rock Health, which found more patients and consumers using health tracking tools and sharing their data with physicians. Both reports are also in line with another poll published last April by the Consumer Technology Association, which found physicians and patients alike to be interested in connected devices and remote monitoring technologies.


“Medical training and education will need to be continuously modernized to keep pace with new practice trends,” the report’s authors wrote. “Leaders across health care, government, technology, and other groups will need to engage in constructive ways to tackle physician concerns, including practice burdens that lead to professional distress and disillusionment. While the issues are manifold, we believe that those with a stake in the future have both a strong incentive to act and the capacity to do so.”

Digital health developments in 2020 and beyond

The next decade is sure to be a test of digital health technologies — but it will also test traditional health systems. In January, MobiHealthNews will be looking at the possibilities for digital health in 2020 and beyond.

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