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TECHNOLOGY

Survey finds digital technology is changing the physician-patient relationship

A recent survey conducted by WebMD/Medscape, a leading provider of health information services, offers noteworthy insight into physician and patient perspectives on health technology’s role in aiding diagnosis and care.

Dr. Eric Topol, a leading authority in the fields of genomics and digital medicine, who serves as both editor-in-chief of Medscape and chief academic officer of Scripps Health, discussed the findings during his keynote address at the Health 2.0 conference in September 2014.

“While data show clear differences between patients and doctors in certain areas, most noticeably around who owns medical records, the two groups are coming ever closer in their embrace of new technology in medical practice,” said Dr. Topol. “There is a growing understanding among physicians that patients have greater access to care and cost information and that is giving them greater voice in the decision-making process.”

The WebMD/Medscape survey of 1,102 patients and 1,406 healthcare professionals included 827 physicians.

The survey reveals often surprising perspectives about patients’ and physicians’ willingness to embrace the use of digital technology; their understanding of who owns and has rights to see medical records; expectations regarding access to information; and concerns about topics including data security and privacy.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • Consumers (84%) and doctors (69%) embrace technology to enhance and aid the diagnostic process
  • Patients (64%) and physicians (63%) agree that the smartphone can be a useful diagnostic tool in regard to blood tests
  • With regard to using a smartphone to perform other tests, such as eye and ear examinations in place of an office visit, nearly one half of patients would consider doing so, while only about one-third of doctors would be willing to accept information from patients’ smartphones in place of office visits
  • There is overwhelming support among patients (96%) and physicians (96%) around a patient’s right to see their lab and diagnostic test results
  • However, doctors feel that giving patients access to detailed electronic medical records could lead to anxiety about results (91%) and unnecessary requests for medical evaluations (84%), whereas patients feel that this access will allow them to better manage their health (93%)
  • Importantly, patients (58%) and doctors (77%) agree that doctors should review test results before sharing with patients
  • The majority of patients (58%) and doctors (60%) don’t view privacy and security issues as barriers to using digital health technologies for communication, or for accessing and sharing electronic medical records

During his keynote address, Dr. Topol described the dawn of a new era: the democratization of medicine, which is being made possible by these digital health technologies, which are fundamentally changing the relationship between patients and physicians.

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