Half of over 55s prefer digital tools to in-person healthcare

New research has found older people are equally split in their attitudes to the adoption of digital healthcare during the Covid-19 pandemic, with half preferring digital tools to in-person consultations.

Although relatively small in size, the research conducted by Censuswide on behalf of digital transformation enabler Mobiquity questions the idea that older people lack the will and skills to access digital health services.

From the 50% of over-55s who said they preferred digital consultation, half had used remote monitoring and 50% had taken part in video consultations.

The report, Covid-19: Ensuring a quality patient experience with the rise of digitisation in a healthcare setting surveyed 301 GPs and 3,009 patients in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands.

Over half (51%) of UK patients said using digital tools had led to faster GP access. Mobile applications were the most common digital tool in the UK, used by 32% of patients during the pandemic. One in four UK patients used video consultations (27%) and telemedicine (25%), while 19% used remote monitoring. Similarly, 19% had undergone video examinations while 18% had used wearable tech.

Patients also reported high levels of comfort when using digital tools. In the UK, 72% of patients felt comfortable using wearable tech while just under 70% said they were happy to use video consultations and remote monitoring.

Over half the UK GPs surveyed said they were employing digital tools for patient consultations during the pandemic, with 55% using video consultations and 52% using video examinations.

The ability to prescribe appropriate treatment more easily was cited by GPs as the main benefit of digital tools and more than three quarters said they were likely to adopt digital health technologies in the future.

Technical issues were the most significant barrier to adoption for GPs in the UK, with over half reporting issues when using telemedicine (65%), video consultations (61%), video examinations (59%), remote monitoring (56%) and applications (52%).

Commenting on the report, Professor John Powell, University of Oxford said: ‘The restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have provided the impetus and opportunity for the rapid uptake of digital health solutions, especially video consultations and remote monitoring. Capturing the views of practitioners and patients on this transformation is vital in understanding the issues that influence successful adoption, scale-up and sustainability. It is notable that this report demonstrates that many patients reported positive experiences of using digital services at this time, particularly in terms of accessibility and convenience, and that the great majority of GPs who took part in the survey were enthusiastic and recognised the importance of the further digital transformation of their services.’