Survey highlights GPs’ concerns over healthcare tech

A survey carried out among GPs across Europe has highlighted concerns over the emergence of healthcare technologies, including wearable devices and apps that can monitor patient data.

Whilst 72 per cent of family doctors stated they have recommended or used an app, forum or wearable device in the past year, many are concerned about the implications of health technology.

The EU-wide “Digital Doctor” survey, carried out by polling company Ipsos Mori, showed that many doctors are concerned about the reliability of mobile technology and also that it may lead to patients misinterpreting their own data and fuel hypochondria.

In the online poll, which surveyed 131 doctors in the UK, France and Germany, the results show GPs are wary of new health technologies, but 25 per cent see a role for healthcare apps in the treatment of patients with certain conditions.

However, when asked whether mobile technology was a reliable means of monitoring health data, the response was more cautious, with 29 per cent of German doctors disagreeing with that statement; in France the figure was 24 per cent whilst UK doctors seemed less concerned with 11 per cent disagreeing.

There was universal concern that digital health tools will lead to more conflict between doctor and patient with 27 per cent saying they were “worried” about that eventuality compared to 15 per cent who were not.

And 66 per cent of all doctors were concerned that patients may ‘mis-intepret’ their data, 61 per cent worried that it will ‘fuel hypochondria’ and 53 per cent concerned about the ‘lack of privacy and security’.

Doctors did however see the benefits for patients in the management of chronic conditions including diabetes (73 per cent), cardiovascular (35 per cent) and respiratory (29 per cent).

But overall the majority of doctors do not know what they want from digital health solutions (73 per cent) but of those that did the highest response was for ‘patient monitoring’.

Of those actively involved in the development of such tools, lack of trust levels were higher for the technology companies producing them (24 per cent) rather than pharmaceutical firms (40 per cent).

Reena Sangar, Digital Lead at Ipsos Healthcare, said in summary: “Digital health (in the form of lifestyle apps, wearables etc) is acknowledged by Doctors as part of the future of healthcare; however where and how it will be applied seems to be unclear. Doctors see an opportunity in chronic health conditions but cannot pin down an exact application. The primary barriers in development which need to be overcome are ensuring the technology developed is simple to use, reliable (with limited potential for error) and seamlessly integrated with current systems with optimum security features.”

She added: “Pharma, with its resources and connections to wider health services, would be well placed to support the development of digital health. However, Doctors are wary of their commercial intentions. So, how can pharma overcome this hurdle? And what marketing approach would be optimal to bridge this gap of trust with Doctors?”