4 myths debunked: the journey of digital health

Following the development of new technologies, IT adoption in the healthcare systems started to take place from the 1950s on. The world of digital health is currently changing and developing unbelievably fast.

Success in digitalization in health care depends very much on understanding patients’ preferences. However, many digital healthcare strategies are driven by myths or false information. McKinsey & Company’s consulting firm conducted the McKinsey Digital Patient Survey (2014) to find out more about the truth of the following existing myths. Read on to get the most important points on the fast-changing digital health landscape.

Myth 1: People don’t want to use digital services for healthcare

The sensitive nature of medical care is believed to have a big influence on the perceived importance of protecting patients’ privacy. The reason patients are slow to adopt digital healthcare is primarily because existing services don’t meet their needs or because they are of poor quality. More than 75 percent is actually keen to use digital health care services if those services meet their needs and provide them with an expected level of quality. Digital channels have to be integrated with a multichannel concept, as they continue to be relevant and important.

Myth 2: Only young people want to use digital services

The myth that only younger generations would want to use digital services is one of the more prevalent myths. The survey shows, however, that patients of all ages are more than willing to use digital services for healthcare. Older patients want digital services nearly as much as their younger counterparts: actually, more than 70 percent of all older patients in the United Kingdom and Germany, and an even higher proportion in Singapore, want to make use of digital services. The survey found a difference in the kinds of digital channels older and younger patients want to use, though. Older patients prefer traditional digital channels such as websites and email, while younger patients are, unsurprisingly, more open to newer channels such as social media.

Myth 3: Mobile health is the game changer

The practice of healthcare supported by mobile devices is often emphasised as the future of digital services in healthcare. McKinsey’s survey shows that demand for mobile healthcare is not universal, which means it is not the single critical factor in the future of healthcare digitisation.

There surely is a demand for mobile healthcare applications, and it is strongest among younger people. Health systems should, therefore, create mobile solutions that target this audience, for example, apps that focus on supporting a healthy lifestyle.

Myth 4: Patients want innovative features and apps

The features patients expect from the digital health services are quite mundane: they expect the services to be efficient, accessible, integrated with other channels. In case the digital service doesn’t give them what they need, they would expect the availability of a real person.

Expectations digital health

Exhibit: The expectations of patients show that it is not always necessary to start big 

This survey shows that the first step is to understand what the patient really wants and what would be the best way to give it to them. Next, services should be segmented according to basic criteria such as the value created through the service. Finally, organisations should keep on adding new features to their digital services to keep patient attention and build value.

We believe the healthcare industry is on the cusp of the third wave of IT adoption, and that now is the time for it to go all in on digital strategies. Understanding what patients want—and what is pure myth—can help pave the way.