The case for the connected patient

“Patient engagement is the blockbuster drug of the century.”
– Leonard Kish

Many have heard this quote and similar sentiments in recent years. There is no question that the health industry has (finally) recognized the contribution that patients make when they are active and informed members of their care team. And research is bearing this out.

The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) in its report Feeling Better? Improving patient experience in hospital, reveals that organizations with a strong emphasis on providing a high-quality patient experience have better health outcomes. Furthermore, research1 has linked the positive patient experience to health system benefits, such as lower overhead costs through lower staff turnover, enhanced patient recovery, improved productivity and efficiencies, and more informed choices by patients.

Every year, Canada Health Infoway (Infoway) conducts an annual survey of Canadians to gauge their levels of awareness, understanding and perceived benefits of digital health, as well as current access and use of these services in Canada.

The results demonstrate that access to digital health solutions and services has doubled in the last two years. This is good news; however, the vast majority of Canadians want to access their health services digitally and there is a gap between the numbers who want such access and those who already have it. Canadians who have the ability to access their health services digitally are reporting positive patient experiences and are more confident in the care they receive.

Here are a few highlights of what Canadians have told us:

  • 89 per cent of Canadians feel it is important that they personally have full advantage of digital health tools and capabilities
  • 96 per cent of Canadians believe it’s important that health records be kept electronically so that they can be easily transferred within the health system
  • Canadians who have access to digital health services are less likely to have privacy concerns than those who do not (63 per cent vs 54 per cent)
  • The availability of consumer digital health services has doubled from six per cent to seven per cent in 2014, to 14 per cent to 22 per cent in 2016.
  • Canadians who have online access to their health information or health services are reporting positive experiences
    • 75 per cent feel more confident in the care they are receiving
    • 77 per cent feel online access has helped improve their knowledge of their health
    • 74 per cent say online health services support more informed discussions with their doctor

Canadians have been generous with their time and their insights, and I encourage you to read the report: Connecting Patients for Better Health: 2016 to learn more about what they think about digital health.

It is important to listen to patients. That is how patient engagement begins, and that is why it is the first step in the patient engagement framework that guides Infoway’s activities. Over the past few years, I have had the pleasure of meeting many patients and I have had the opportunity to hear what they think about digital health. A common theme I hear, whether as part of the research Infoway has conducted, or through patient advocacy groups we work with or our ImagineNation Challenge series, is that Canadians want online patient services to help them manage their health.

The second component of our patient engagement framework is to amplify the voice of patients, their families and advocates. We aim to inspire awareness and broader engagement through the Better Health Together public education and engagement initiative. As part of these efforts, I look forward to another successful Digital Health Week 2016 (November 14-20). We and our many partners want to hear from anyone with a stake in digital health – and who doesn’t have a stake in it? Join the conversation at #thinkdigitalhealth. Find out about other ways to participate by visiting us at www.

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