Editorial

COVID-19: Half of older patients prefer digital tools to in-person consultations

Survey of GPs shows over 55s would rather have remote monitoring and video examinations than physical consultations

Posted 20 January 2021 by

New research shows that half of older patients in the UK had a better experience with digital tools compared to in-person consultations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report, commissioned by Mobiquity and conducted by Censuswide, reveals that half of UK patients aged over 55 preferred digital tools instead of in-person consultations during COVID-19. The most preferred digital tools used by over 55s included remote monitoring (50 percent) and video examinations (50 percent).

The report surveyed 301 GPs and 3,009 patients in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands. It found that among the benefits highlighted by patients was the ability to see their GP quicker than normal. More than half (51 percent) of UK patients found that using digital tools led to quicker access to their GP.

For GPs, the ability to prescribe appropriate treatment more easily was cited as the main benefit of digital tools, with over a quarter of UK GPs reporting that remote monitoring (27 percent), video consultations (26 percent), video examinations (27 percent), and applications (35 percent) made it easier to prescribe the appropriate treatment to patients.

Mobile applications were the most used digital tool by UK patients, with nearly a third (32 percent) of patients using mobile apps during the COVID-19 pandemic. One in 4 UK patients used video consultations (27 percent) and telemedicine (25 percent), while fewer than 1 in 5 used remote monitoring (19 percent), video examinations (19 percent) and wearable tech (18 percent).

Patients reported high levels of comfort when using digital tools. In the UK, over 3 in 5 patients felt comfortable using wearable tech (72 percent), telemedicine (69 percent), applications (69 percent), video consultations (68 percent) and remote monitoring (67 percent).

GPs embracing digital

Despite the popular belief that GPs are opposed to new technologies that disturb the patient and doctor relationship, research shows that GPs are actively embracing digital tools. In the UK, over half (56 percent) of GPs were using digital tools generally for patient consultations during COVID-19, and over half were using video consultations (55 percent) and video examinations (52 percent) more than before COVID-19.

The report reveals a high likelihood of adoption of digital health technologies in the future among GPs. GPs in the UK are willing to embrace digital tools in the future, with over three-quarters of UK GPs recognising that remote monitoring (87 percent), telemedicine (76 percent), video consultations (79 percent), video examinations (84 percent), applications (82 percent), and wearable tech (76 percent) will be important to the future of medicine.

For patients, there is a similar willingness to use digital health tools in the future, with over half (51 percent) of UK patients considering using remote consultations in the future after their experience during COVID-19.

However, barriers to adoption were also referenced by patients and doctors surveyed. In the UK, 64 percent of patients would still prefer in-person consultations in the future, citing concerns over privacy and monitoring when using digital tools.

Technical issues were the most significant barrier to adoption for GPs, with over half of UK GPs reporting technical issues when using telemedicine (65 percent), video consultations (61 percent), video examinations (59 percent), remote monitoring (56 percent) and applications (52 percent).