Patients continue to embrace digital healthcare post COVID-19

Almost a fifth of UK patients are turning away from face-to-face appointments as trust in modern technologies grows, new research shows

Since the outbreak of Coronavirus, the UK health sector has rapidly adopted digital solutions, including video and telephone consultations

Almost a fifth – 17% – of UK patients have turned away from face-to-face appointments as their preferred method for accessing medical advice and treatment, as trust in modern technologies grows, according to new research from Nuance.

The global study, which polled 10,000 adults across the US, UK, Australia, Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Italy, Spain, and Mexico, found that before the COVID-19 pandemic, the vast majority of UK patients – 64% – preferred to receive their medical advice in person. And very few would have selected phone consultations (16%) or video consultations (4%) as an alternative.

However, over the course of the pandemic, the NHS was forced to transform the way it delivered patient services.

And digital appointments quickly became a part of everyday life for patients.

And this has led to fundamental shifts in both behaviour and attitude.

As restrictions ease, and wider healthcare services resume, less than half (47%) of UK patients would choose to rely solely on face-to-face appointments in the future.

Moving forward modern technologies are set to play a key role in enabling healthcare organisations to meet patient expectations and continue to drive better experiences for both patients and clinicians

In fact, the poll revealed that 47% of respondents are now comfortable with receiving medical services remotely, with 15% feeling ‘very comfortable’.

In this new landscape, phone appointments, video appointments, and a mixture of these alongside in-person visits are preferred by two fifths (40%) of respondents.

When asked why this was the case, almost half (46%) cited no travel. This was closely followed by the ability to reduce the pressure on health service resources (36%), and speed up the time it takes to access treatment (35%).

In addition to being more comfortable with accessing healthcare services remotely, many UK patients have also become increasingly open to the use of modern technologies – such as artificial intelligence (AI) – over the course of the pandemic.

In fact two thirds (60%) said they would now be open to its use to produce clinical documentation, instead of relying on hand-written notes by their doctor.

When asked why they were more open to the use of AI, nearly three quarters (71%) highlighted the potential to speed up appointments, 50% said they believed it would help their doctor focus on the diagnosis, while almost a third (32%) felt it would lead to more-accurate and detailed medical information.

The new digital practices that emerged from this time of chaos have resulted in long-term changes to patient expectations and preferences

The speed with which these patients have become comfortable with this significant shift in healthcare delivery points towards where the industry is heading.

“Over the course of the global pandemic, the NHS was forced to radically transform the way that it delivered its life-saving services,” said Simon Wallace, chief clinical information officer at Nuance.

“The new digital practices that emerged from this time of chaos have resulted in long-term changes to patient expectations and preferences.

“The industry has evolved and this research indicates that there is no going back.”

He added: “Quality patient care depends on detailed and accurate clinical documentation.

“By enabling medical professionals to compile records using just their voice, AI-powered technologies recognise and record long passages of speech, capturing the complete patient story at the point of care, while reducing repetition and supporting standardisation across departments.

“Given that humans speak at least three times faster than we type, integrating these types of technologies will free up clinicians’ time so they can spend more time seeing patients and delivering quality care.

Harnessing these solutions could drastically reduce the clinical documentation burden many clinicians face, meaning time savings for patients and less strain on medical resources

“Patients have seen the benefits of smarter, tech-enabled services and, as a result, trust in AI-powered solutions to support healthcare delivery is at an all time high.

“Harnessing these solutions could drastically reduce the clinical documentation burden many clinicians face, meaning time savings for patients and less strain on medical resources.

“Moving forward modern technologies are set to play a key role in enabling healthcare organisations to meet patient expectations and continue to drive better experiences for both patients and clinicians.”

Companies