Crossing The Digital Health Chasm Between Consumers And Providers – Talking With Dr. Eric Topol

Jane Sarasohn-Kahn | HealthPopuli | September 26, 2014

More than twice as many patients than physicians are embracing consumers’ use of new digital technologies to self-diagnose medical conditions on their own.  On the other hand, 91% of doctors are concerned about giving patients access to their detailed electronic health records, anticipating patients will feel anxious about the results; only 34% of consumers are concerned about anxiety-due-to-EHR-exposure.  Welcome to the digital health chasm, that gap between what consumers want out of digital health, and what doctors believe patients can handle at this stage in EHR adoption in doctors’ offices and in patients’ lives.

I have the video of Jack Nicholson’s General in A Few Good Men asserting, “You can’t handle the truth!”  And yet…patients told the WebMD Survey of consumer-users that, indeed, they look forward to examining physicians notes about them, using smartphones for blood analysis, and using their personal smartphones for submitting information to their doctors about suspicion skin problems, heart rates, and ear examination.  Furthermore, over half of consumers believe they own their medical records – not their doctors.

The WebMD Survey polled 1,102 random WebMD users and the Medscape Digital Technology Survey polled 1,406 clinicians who are active on Medscape, in August 2014. Only physicians’ responses (N=827) were included in the reported survey results discussed here. The larger Medscape sample also included nurse practitioners, nurses, physician assistants, and med students.  I spoke one-on-one with Dr. Eric Topol on September 18, 2014, the week before the survey was released, and his response to the survey from the physician point of view is that physicians’ responses to the survey were “better” than he thought they would be with respect to their embrace of consumers using digital health tools...