By Spitz (@SpitzStrategy)

Healthcare professionals need data to do their jobs, and digital has progressively provided a viable, efficient, and eminently scalable channel. Near the top of every physician’s priority list is easy access to and sharing of patient education materials, especially as HCPs get busier and the point-of-care window keeps shrinking.

So is digital actually an effective conduit for patient education and engagement? How and to what extent is digital used, does the channel resonate, and what might the future entail?

Folks at the HealthEd Academy have recently conducted the “Healthcare Extender Lens Survey” of non-MD healthcare professionals who work directly with and on behalf of patients to help answer exactly these questions ‚ì let’s take a quick look.

Print is Still King

Although more than half of American adults and nearly two-thirds of healthcare extenders now use a smartphone, only a quarter of them participate in point-of-care mobile health interactions. Despite all the #mhealth buzz patient adoption remains low, and healthcare provider habits are slow to change.

Coming as perhaps a surprise to early adopters and for most of us immersed in digital communications, still at the top of the heap is old school print, followed by hands-on demos, stationary store white paper, and flip boards. Digital modalities such as email, YouTube videos, and referral websites and other Internet assets lag behind traditional staples seemingly unchanged from generations ago.

But Digital is Making a Difference

Despite the relatively sluggish shift to digital forms of patient education, the trend toward mobile health as the dominant engagement channel is inexorable and inevitable, driven, interestingly enough, by patients themselves. The HealthEd survey confirms this, as 79% of those polled who use apps report that digital actually improves the quality of patient interactions.

Likely no single gadget has transformed mobile and healthcare as much as the iPad, taking a marginalized and questionable “tablet” modality into the forefront of consumer and even professional electronics. Nearly a third of healthcare extenders have a tablet now, 60% wish they did, while 20% are already using them with patients.

But the largest shift in digital patient education is still what we would consider “conventional digital,” taking the form of PC-driven interactions and emailing. Healthcare professionals are also commonly printing and sharing online content with their patients, using the Web as a resource but doing so in a manner that hybridizes old school and new.

The Future of Patient Education

Healthcare reform is front and center, with uncertainties abounding. But the one thing we can count on is digital playing an increasing role‚îfostered by governmental incentives for adoption and integration of technology. Spurred by these and other pressure, healthcare professionals and their patients will increasingly embrace digital for patient education, but in what form, and to what end?

Pharma, medical device companies, payers, and others with vested interest in patient education, compliance, and relationship management have already embraced emerging digital channels. Mobile apps with integrated multichannel strategies are clearly paving the way, but only time will tell how that healthcare professional/patient digital interaction will evolve.

Dynamic content and advanced targeting and profiler tools are only the beginning. Varied levels of healthcare literacy can now be addressed as digital is the optimal medium for getting the right content to the right patient at the right time and in the right way.

Stay tuned as Pixels and Pills and think tanks like HealthEd Academy keep you posted, and follow these game changing trends for the betterment of patient outcomes worldwide.















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