Physicians’ biggest digital health concerns

images-2KEY TAKEAWAY: Doctors are not convinced that digital health can deliver on all of its promises. Among the concerns are being compensated for time emailing patients as well as patients being misdiagnosed via online consultations with doctors who aren’t aware of their medical history.

Last week I was in Michigan for some market research with doctors around digital health.  To say that they “are concerned” would be an understatement.  As one doctor said in our very first session “it’s only a matter of time before some unlucky physician is sued for misdiagnosing a patient online”.

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They understand, for the most part, that patients want to communicate with them online and they are comfortable with using email for Rx renewals which can be handled by someone in their office.  However, what they are not comfortable with is using digital as a diagnostic channel.  They want to see patients in person so they can evaluate them and ask the appropriate diagnostic questions. “There’s more to medicine than just hearing about some symptoms and prescribing a medication” one PCP told us.

Their biggest concern was having patients consult with physicians online who were not aware of the patient’s medical history.  “This is dangerous”, one doctor said, “most patients don’t disclose their full medical history, which is why I need to physically see a patient to ask the right questions”.

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Then there was compensation. “If I answer 20 emails with patients and we go back and forth with questions and answers, how am I going to get compensated for that time and more importantly where am I going to find the time to do that?”.  Some doctors said that their staff takes care of a lot of patient communications via email, but that their staff has, to some of them with questions and for Rx approvals”.

Digital health maybe the future of health care, but right now we are in a beta testing mode for most initiatives.  A lot of research needs to be done to convince doctors that digital health equals better patient outcomes and insurers need to get involved to make the channel viable.

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