Results of a new study commissioned by GlaxoSmithKline Australia (GSK) reveal that Australians are in a bind when it comes to healthcare digitisation – recognising the benefits of healthcare technologies but struggling with anxieties around privacy.
While nearly three quarters (72.8%) of Australians reported using technology in some form to manage their health, more than half (51%) ranked concerns about the security of their personal information as their top reservation about how technology is affecting healthcare.
“As an industry, we have a role to play in ensuring digital innovation continues to enhance patients’ experiences and that data transparency is done right. Upholding these responsibilities will help build confidence that as increasing digitisation propels healthcare in an exciting direction, the privacy of Australians will continue to be respected and maintained,” said David Herd, Director of Healthcare Environment at GSK.
Technology continues to change the way healthcare services are being delivered and the widespread introduction of electronic health records is just one such change.
Although the Federal Government has committed $374.2 million over the next two years to provide every Australian with an electronic health record by default, only 38% of those questioned said they would consider signing up to have a secure online summary of their health information, if given the option.
Despite highlighting a reluctance to sign up to online health records, the survey also found that 57% wished their healthcare records could be more effectively shared across health providers – an output that electronic health systems aim to deliver by better connecting national health systems, resulting in better, faster and more efficient care.
“The results of this research suggest that greater education is needed to instil trust and understanding of how new healthcare technologies will ultimately benefit the end-patient and our nation as a whole,” said Herd.
While technology is valued as a means of support, many Australians still place their trust in humans over machines, with almost a third (29.9%) of Australians worried about the use of artificial intelligence in place of a person to make decisions about their healthcare. Other concerns about the effects of technology on healthcare included being able to find trustworthy and accurate information (34.8%) and a lack of personal contact with healthcare practitioners (31.4%).
“As the scope of possibility increases with the evolution of health technology, so do patients’ expectations of how services should meet their needs. While algorithms and digitisation will bring welcome efficiencies, it is essential that digital innovations reflect the care and support needs of patients,” Herd explained.
Moving forward, consumers are still hopeful that healthcare tech will facilitate major gains in the future. According to the survey, these include cheaper, more convenient access to services which are more tailored to the individual as well as services which support filtering accurate, trustworthy and relevant information.
“Digital technology continues to change the face of healthcare and is rapidly increasing the scope of how we can help Australians better manage their health,” said Herd.
From electronic health records through to wearable health technology, innovation is supporting healthcare to become more personalised, targeted and effective. As a result, Australians are more empowered to take more control of how they manage their health,” he added.