Patients Ready to Embrace AI, Patient Engagement Technologies

Patients are ready to integrate artificial intelligence (AI) into their healthcare experiences, alongside numerous other digital patient engagement technologies, according to a recent survey commissioned by Pegasystems.

The survey of 2,000 healthcare consumers and 200 business decision makers (BDMs) revealed that AI may soon be the future of patient care.

Forty-two percent of patient respondents said they are comfortable with their doctors using AI to make healthcare decisions, and 29 percent are comfortable with their payers doing so. Thirty-one percent said they are comfortable with their payers using AI chatbots to answer patient questions online.

These responses reveal a shift toward more personalized and data-driven patient engagement, the survey authors said.

“Overall, we’re seeing positive trends in the healthcare industry when it comes to personalized patient engagement – including providers and payers – as well as the adoption of new technology, but there’s still quite a bit of work to be done,” Kelli Bravo, vice president and industry market lead of healthcare & life sciences at Pegasystems, said in a statement.

Patients are welcoming of more technology than just AI. Fifty-five percent of patients are open to virtual care visits and 58 percent are willing to provide their doctors with access to the data gleaned from mobile apps.

However, it is clear that patients trust their clinicians with patient engagement technology more than their payers. For example, 60 percent of patients said they are willing to grant their doctors access to real-time wearable and app data, but only 37 percent said the same of their payers.

In fact, 78 percent of patients said they had total confidence in their doctors’ offices, while only 52 percent said the same of their payers. These findings mark a shortcoming in the payer space as it relates to patient engagement, communication, and care.

Provider organizations are trying to deliver on these patient technology preferences, although they have not entirely met them. While 86 percent of BDMs said their organizations are currently looking into new patient engagement technologies, only 13 percent could say they will implement those tools within the next year.

More headway has been made with regards to virtual care visits, with 77 percent of providers saying they offer these types of visits.

Nonetheless, providers still must do more than they think they need to in order to meet patient demands, the survey showed. Nearly 100 percent of BDMs said they are fulfilling their patient-centered care goals.

However, only 35 percent of patients said they feel valued by their doctor’s office and only 20 percent feel valued by their payers.

And although 50 percent of patients said their doctors are readily available, there was a notable cohort who did not agree with that notion. One-fifth of patients either disagreed or strongly disagreed that their doctors are easily accessible, underscoring a key population that needs better engagement and care access.

Further, most patients are skeptical of the care coordination and communication between payers and providers.

“Care teams – from insurers to doctors – need to ensure they are communicating effectively not only with patients but also with each other to create a positive impact on an individual’s health outcome,” Bravo said.

One-quarter of consumers said they did not believe their doctors and insurers adequately coordinated their care.

Again, this indicates that organizations need to do more than they think in order to fulfill patient needs. Ninety-three percent of BDMs said payers and providers communicate with one another well, underscoring a disconnect between supposed reality and patient perceptions.

Patients also want more from their patient-provider communications, the survey continued. Currently, 28 percent of organizations use email as their primary patient communication channel. Twenty-four percent use phone calls, which came in as the second most popular engagement platform.

But that’s not exactly what patients want, the survey revealed. Most patients (62 percent) want phone call communication because it is more personalized than an email messages. Forty-five percent of patients want the same from their payers.

Patients also want their providers to communicate with them more often. Thirty percent of healthcare consumers said they want their doctors to communicate with them more frequently, and 20 percent said the same of their payers.

These results may also indicate room for improvement in the digital technology realm, the survey authors noted. Although it is important to meet patients where they prefer, innovation in mobile chat, email, and other digital platforms could fill patient communication needs.

Ultimately, it will be important for payers and providers alike to engage patients, the survey concluded. Sixty-five percent of patients said patient motivation techniques from providers nudge them toward healthy behavior change. Over 50 percent of respondents also said they are influenced by their primary payers.

As value-based care models push providers to drive patient wellness and behavior change, it will be important they reach patients where they are. In doing so, providers can ensure that their messages are heard and, ideally, listened to and followed.

Originally published in Patient Engagement HIT by Sara Heath on February 19, 2019