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Digital Healthcare: What Do Patients Think? Part 2

Patients Open to Digital Healthcare

In this post, we will focus on the positive views that European asthma and COPD patients have about digital healthcare services and devices. This is our second blog post based on EFA’s newly published DIG_IT report (see our introduction here).

The results of the survey are encouraging: the majority of asthma (76%) and COPD patients (67%)  are very, or at least somewhat, open to digital healthcare. While patients are generally satisfied with how their illnesses are treated, almost two thirds see that there is scope for further empowerment through digital solutions. 

The Covid-19 pandemic had a noticeable impact on patients’ attitudes. Half of asthma patients and 41% of COPD patients had a more positive attitude towards digital healthcare within the past 12 months. As the pandemic increased patients’ familiarity with technologies, their attitudes became more favourable. 

Patients Satisfied with Home Use Spirometry 

Patients who had experience with different digital technologies, rated a high satisfaction with them. For diagnostic purposes, patients were most satisfied with home-use digital spirometry and online booking for medical appointments for diagnostics. Home-use spirometry was given 8.2 (asthma patients) and 8.3 (COPD patients) out of 10 points. 

Satisfaction with health technologies for care management purposes was also high. Patients gave top ratings to digital devices — oxygen saturation, inhaler, peak flow meter and spirometer — and tools to monitor air quality. Electronic diaries, apps for disease and health management, e-consultations and telemonitoring received high scores as well. We are pleased to read the results, as they confirm that we have seen what patients value, and respond to their needs with our service.

When questioning the perceived usefulness of digital solutions to manage care for asthma and COPD, patients rated digital devices most useful. Around two thirds of patients found them very useful or useful. Only 10% of asthmatics and 7% of COPD patients didn’t find them useful.

 

Patients were most satisfied with home-use digital spirometry and other digital devices, and most interested in home monitoring and testing.

 

The Convenience of Digital Healthcare Is Appreciated

Of spontaneous reasons given for digital healthcare use, convenience and saving time and/or money was cited as the main reason. Digital healthcare devices and services are fast and easy to use, they help avoid travel and make it possible to arrange care from home. The possibility to receive early warnings of deterioration ranked highly as well. 

Within technological developments, patients were most interested in home testing and monitoring from home. Daily updates about air quality, general information about the illness, and digital communication such as regular follow-ups were appreciated as well.  

Lack of Awareness is a Key Obstacle

While patients who had experience of digital respiratory devices rated them particularly highly, awareness of them is low. Only around one fifth of the patients had used the devices at least occasionally. Diagnostic use is even lower, especially in regards to home-use digital spirometers: a minor 5% had used one at least occasionally. For other digital diagnostic tools to use at home, the numbers are only slightly better.

Evidently, there is a long way to go if patients’ interest towards digital services is compared to the number of patients who have access to them. The use is also distributed unevenly. In our next post on the report, we will address the concerns patients have about digital healthcare, and some of the challenges in the way of its wider application. More to come!