Rock Health and the Stanford Center for Digital Health released findings from the sixth annual Consumer Adoption Survey.
Amidst a national pandemic and the ensuing stay-at-home orders, consumer adoption rates grew significantly from 2019 to 2020. Specifically, researchers saw 10+ percentage point increases across live video telemedicine, wearable ownership, and digital health metric tracking. The 2020 survey data suggest that consumers more than ever expect technology to be an integral part of their healthcare experience.
While COVID-19 kicked the digital health ecosystem into high gear, the rate of change in adoption differed by technology and by subgroup. Telemedicine adoption (across all mediums-video, text, phone, etc.), for example, remained highest among subgroups which were (in prior years) already the likeliest adopters: middle-aged adults (35-54), higher-income earners, more highly educated, and those with chronic conditions. Meanwhile, the 2020 data show comparatively lower adoption rates among groups historically less likely to adopt telemedicine: consumers from more rural areas, those 55 and older, and lower-income respondents. As such, the 2020 data suggest that the pandemic acted more to reinforce and accelerate underlying trends rather than to draw in new consumer subgroups as telemedicine users.
In addition to reviewing consumer’s use of digital tools to manage health, the report also examines data-sharing preferences. As in previous years, consumer willingness to share their health data depends on whom they are sharing it with. Consumers remained most willing to share their health data with their doctor (72%), health insurer (53%), and family (52%).
Researchers also asked respondents about their willingness to share their COVID-19 test results (if they were tested or were to get tested). Respondents’ comfort in sharing COVID-19 data followed that of health data generally – consumers were most trusting of their doctor, family, and health insurer. However, respondents revealed some interesting differences between their willingness to share health data generally versus COVID-19 results.
Approximately twice the number of consumers were willing to share their COVID-19 results with the government or their employer as compared to their willingness to share general health data with those same entities. The reverse was true with other entities. For example, respondents were more willing to share their general health than their COVID-19 results with pharmacies and health insurers.
The 2020 survey data suggest that consumers more than ever expect technology to be part of their healthcare experience. And, the data show that a significant proportion of consumers currently prefer virtual care to in-person visits and noted very high levels of satisfaction for live video visits in particular. High levels of satisfaction coupled with greater exposure among providers and patients to telemedicine and digital health tracking offer promise for next-generation forms of digital health.
The 2020 data also exposed other vulnerabilities yet to be tackled in digital health — there is still uneven adoption of digital health tools. Most consumers are reluctant to share personal healthcare data with many of the stakeholders building healthcare solutions for them. And while the rise of live video telemedicine is a positive signal for a shift to digitally-enabled care, it continues to be an expensive form of care that is not quickly or easily scalable.
By surfacing these challenges, Rock Health wants to encourage digital health innovators to keep iterating and leaning in to uncover areas where adoption doesn’t match the potential for growth.
Since 2015, Rock Health has annually surveyed 4,000 consumers to understand consumer adoption of digital health technologies. Over the five years prior to 2020, adoption has steadily climbed. Then came 2020, along with a global pandemic. For the first time, digital health solutions were not simply an enhancement, but rather a necessity in healthcare access and delivery. To better understand the implications of the pandemic on consumer behavior and preferences, Rock Health doubled its survey sample size.