Access to a mobile app that allowed ambulatory breast reconstruction patients to submit photos and report information to physicians resulted in fewer post-surgery follow-up appointments, according to a study published by JAMA Surgery.
Out of 65 women treated between February 1, 2015, and August 31, 2015, 32 women with access to the app attended a mean of 0.66 in-person visits while 33 women without the app attended a mean of 1.64 in-person visits.
- There were no significant differences in telephone calls with physicians, satisfaction scores or complications between the two groups, although women with access to the app sent more emails to their physicians and reported higher convenience scores.
One obstacle that has hindered adoption of technology in healthcare has been doubt over its ability to replace in-person care. However, results such as these are slowly helping to break down barriers holding technology back, especially as patients increasingly indicate their preference for more consumer-friendly services.
Out of 32 women in the study who had access to the app, 30 (97%) agreed or strongly agreed that their follow-up care was convenient. Meanwhile, only 16 of 33 (48%) women without access to the app agreed or strongly agreed that their follow-up care was convenient. This response lends credence to surveys that suggest patients would appreciate digital tools that allow communication with their physicians.
For instance, 62% of those surveyed for a report published June 2016 by Salesforce said they would consider virtual appointments with physicians. Another 61% who had been hospitalized or knew someone who had been hospitalized reported that post-discharge communication with physicians could be improved.
Some healthcare providers have begun to experiment with new care delivery systems that rely heavily on technology. For instance, One Medical, which operates a network of retail clinics, allows patients email and video chat with physicians, send photographs, refill prescriptions and schedule appointments via a website and mobile app. These tools are not only convenient for patients, they also streamline administrative tasks for One Medical physicians and employees.
While the potential for technology to transform healthcare is there, the transformation has not occurred as quickly as some might have hoped. Former CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt, in a recent Q&A with HIStalk, expressed frustration with health IT vendors for engaging in self-congratulatory behavior even though their products arguably make physicians jobs more difficult. A study published September 2016 by Annals of Internal Medicine found physicians spend about half of their workdays on EHR and administrative tasks.
Despite frustration with the slow pace of progress that technology is making in healthcare, the potential is still there. “I don’t think anybody should lose promise in the power of what technology can do,” Slavitt said.