The Accessibility of Digital Health

Daniel J. Gandor accessibility of digital health

Like any system, health care exists in a state of constant reinvention; the way we access the tools and services that facilitate our well-being is molded by shifting social circumstance, and refined by technological progress. There’s no doubt that improvements in digital health products’ market availability and processing power have rendered them more accessible than ever before. However, digital heath’s current potential for access doesn’t guarantee its use by many or even most, and several roadblocks still bar the path to widespread adoption of the latest, greatest health tech advancements.

One factor that limits digital healthcare’s accessibility is some healthcare providers’ misinformed belief that, since health is a sensitive and personal issue, many patients would prefer not to rely on digital health services. This misconception persuades providers to abandon the pursuit of quality digital alternatives, damaging digital health’s accessibility by leaving a market inundated with limited, less feasible products. Health organizations supplementing such a rationale with data showing low use of past digital care offerings might consider revamping digital provisions to answer the type of patient demand revealed by new research in the vein of a recent study conducted by Accenture.

Accenture’s study indicates that around 75% of consumers are willing to use digital tech to track blood pressure, glucose levels, pulse, and other health related measurements. Another 70% said if given the option, they would digitally interact with care providers to receive treatment for milder health issues, such as a rash or a sore throat, and 78% confirmed a general interest in receiving digital health care some or most of the time.

While limitations to digital health’s overall accessibility is attributed in part to the reality that digital alternatives to health care simply do not widely exist in reliable, quality and low-cost forms, it is important to also evaluate the reasoning that prompts health care companies to eschew digital methods in the first place; namely, the lack of consistent consumer engagement with existing digital care applications.

Health care companies may shy from personal health tech when they observe that their digital health offerings’ promise of effective treatment, verified by studies with strategically chosen participants, may not adequately translate to real world results. This is because the ease of signing up for an online service entices not only dedicated patients, but those who might not be motivated enough actually follow through with treatment.

If pharmaceutical companies interested in digital services want to offset the low engagement that leads providers to lose faith in digital services, cutting digital efforts and thus limiting net accessibility, we need to focus on not only enticing consumers with quality services, but prompting them to stay on and continue use. To do requires appealing to the patient psyche; patients must be empowered as agents of their own positive change; they must be shown that by using digital tech, they can gain for themselves the same easy, reasonable treatment solutions available upon visiting the doctor’s office.

Digital health is cemented firmly in our future; according to Accenture’s managing director of virtual health services Frances Dare, “Technology-enabled services will be equally important as traditional in-person services, allowing the modern patient to choose when and how they receive health and care services.” If pharma is to best adapt its digital health approach as accessible in the present, we need to incorporate information which allows for considering development, marketing and deployment strategies in response to specific service preferences, and provides these services through a smooth, seamless and worthwhile interface, one imbued with an alluring simplicity and empathy that extends beyond the signup page and throughout the entire experience.

In other words, just provide real tangible value for patients!

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