Patients Turn To Digital Health Because They Don’t Like Seeing Actual Doctors, Experts Say

Dave KotinskyGetty Images

Several of the world’s leading tech companies have invested a lot of money in the digital health space. Devices and apps designed to diagnose health issues or help patients manage them have risen in popularity in recent years, and while a lot of these tools come with disclaimers that advise users to see an actual doctor for a valid diagnosis, people still download the apps and purchase the gadgets. This trend apparently remains in place for one primary reason — people don’t like going to the clinic or hospital in person to see their doctor.

As explained in a report from CNBC, medical specialists have long warned that digital health solutions aren’t the best option for patients who already have an illness, or are at a “high risk” of serious medical conditions. As for devices, such as Apple and Fitbit’s smartwatches, that make use of sensors and other methods to detect conditions such as sleep apnea and atrial fibrillation, these products still advise their users to see a doctor for further assistance.

With digital health app or device users so reluctant to visit a medical professional, experts believe it is now important for hospitals and clinics to provide a better experience to patients, who tend to avoid these establishments due to the cost, negative experiences, or other factors. This could be achieved if these companies do more than just offer non-conventional alternatives to patients, and team up with medical establishments through “partnerships or new products.”

“All the things done well by digital health — they’re simple, fun, visual with great user experience — are still missing from most clinical visits — so it remains pretty unpleasant to be a patient,” Columbia University Medical Center cardiology fellow Jeffrey Wessler told CNBC.

null

According to CNBC, Wessler’s company, Heartbeat, is dedicated to taking advantage of the technology found in digital health solutions, while also “rethinking” how hospitals provide primary care to patients suffering from, or at risk of heart disease.

Aside from Wessler, CNBC also spoke to Mount Sinai Institute for Next Generation Healthcare director Joel Dudley, who suggested additional tools that could help hospitals and clinics improve the experience for patients. He mentioned the potential of telemedicine, which allows patients to get a consultation via phone or video call, and assures digital health companies that their products’ users have spoken to a doctor, even if they didn’t actually do so in person. Furthermore, doctors could also leverage such apps and devices to improve their practices in such a way that patients wouldn’t get turned off the idea of visiting in person, Dudley added.