Digital health platforms with significant development potential

In preparation to our bi-annual Health Hub Vienna Meetup, the Health Hub Vienna team conducted a short survey with its audience, mainly consisting of health enthusiasts – people interested in and working for the Health Industry in Austria and abroad. Given the topic of our meetup – Network business models and digital patient platforms – we were keen to understand how our ecosystem interacts with digital health products for patients. How widespread is the use of such platforms? How digitally ‘native’ are we really?

The results of the 88 participants were interesting.

Usage of digital health platforms not as common as believed

About two thirds of our respondents have used a digital health platform before, of which half did so only sporadically. This is, of course, better than nothing, but still we would have expected that our sample used such products more regularly. This also indicates that digital health platforms may not be as widely in use as expected, and that more patients need to be exposed to such technology, for example by promoting it to more health care practitioners (HCP). In total, 31% or our respondents have never used a digital health platform before.

Patient engagement with healthcare practitioners is in the starting blocks

Interestingly, patient engagement with their healthcare practitioners on a digital platform showed even lower numbers: just over 60% have never used a digital health platform to engage with their healthcare practitioners, which again raises the question about the cause of this finding. Is the low engagement due to a low interest in using such platforms? Is the interest low on the side of patients, or the HCPs (or both)? Or is this phenomenon explained by a low availability of offer of such platforms to patients? This finding is intriguing and needs further investigation with future research and surveys. In total, only 13% of our sample respondents indicated to be regularly making use of digital health platforms to engage with their healthcare practitioners. Given the advancements in digitalization and the widespread use of smartphones, there is a large room of improvement for the Austrian Healthcare system in this regard.

Digital interaction with healthcare practitioners on top of wish list

If patients were to choose what kind of features they’d like to see in digital health platforms, the top four winners were directly related to HCP engagement, again an interesting finding given the previous statistic. What patients value most are appointment booking tools (which we understand, it’s often easier than to call the practice directly), an opportunity to view personal health results (and ideally have them all in one place, interconnected with other data bases and health care institutions). The use of telemedicine was also highly approved, ranking as top third option, patients would appreciate an opportunity to chat with their healthcare practitioners in an online and digital environment.

Seamless interoperability of digital health platforms as key feature

How does a good digital health platform look like? To our respondents, an easy and intuitive user experience was key: users value a seamless and easy usability of the products. Furthermore, data security and data ownership are, not surprisingly, highly valued aspects users consider in digital health products. And as mentioned before, the interoperability with systems of hospitality, laboratories and private practices is seen as a great feature. So having one platform that fits all requirements for digital health, and that can be used in any context, irrespective of the institution I am engaging with as a patient is what most people in our survey would like to see.

So where are we right now? We haven’t seen this one-size-fits all solution yet, however we would like to have it! We are curious to closely follow and contribute to the developments of digital health platforms – There is a vast amount of digital health products out there.This, of course, needs to happen in line with data security and digital literacy for all stakeholders included – from patient to hospital, to HCP, across various institutions.

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