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More people have used virtual visits, chatbots and other digital health tools since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. But what will it take for them to adopt these tools in the long run?

According to a survey by Accenture, consumers listed the privacy and efficacy of digital health tools as their top two concerns. They were also more interested in receiving virtual health services from traditional healthcare providers than startups or tech companies.

Since March, telehealth providers and other digital health companies have reported a surge in users. For instance, Amwell said it saw a 2,000% increase in visits through its direct-to-consumer telemedicine app from January to March.

But prior to the pandemic, the use of wearables and health apps had started to decline. While 48% of consumers said they used health apps in 2018, only 35% did at the start of 2020. Wearables also saw a steep decline, falling from 33% in 2018 to 18% in 2020.

Before the sudden surge in telehealth visits, only 9% of U.S. respondents said they had received healthcare virtually, and only 11% said their doctor recommended digital tools to manage their health.

Accenture surveyed more than 7,800 people, including more than 2,300 in the U.S. It found that 38% of respondents ranked data privacy or security as their top concern with digital tools and services. Another 20% were most concerned about the effectiveness of these tools.

That said, the level of trust depended on who was providing the service. The vast majority of people said they trusted hospitals and doctors to keep their healthcare information safe — 84% and 83% respectively — while just 45% of users said they trusted tech companies to do the same.

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A higher number of consumers also said they’d be willing to receive virtual care from traditional healthcare providers than other groups. 54% said they would consider this, while 27% of respondents said they would from technology or social media companies, 25% said they would from retail brands, and 21% said they would from medical startups.

For more patients to turn to digital health tools in the future, it’s clear that their doctor or another trusted health advisor will play a role.

Photo credit: diego_cervo, Getty Images



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