Survey shows mixed views from patients on smart pills

A new study from Ernst and Young has shown that consumers are driving demand for use of digital health technology – but some are unconvinced about pharma innovations such as smart pills.

The EY Future of Health in England report also shows that consumers are edging towards impatience with physicians who still favour traditional face-to-face consultations with patients.

The survey of both potential patients and physicians showed that 59% of consumers are interested in having a virtual consultation, but only 7% have actually experienced one.

Other key trends in health technology include the fact that companies outside the sector will become increasingly involved in the healthcare industry.

There was a mixed verdict on pharma innovations in high tech pharma products such as smart pills, that travel in the blood and transmit messages to a phone.

While 38% of healthcare consumers interviewed were “completely or very willing to” try this technology, 32% were “somewhat or not at all willing to” try it.

Proteus Digital Health was the first company to get such a product FDA approved – its Abilify MyCite (aripiprazole tablets with sensor) drug-device combination for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia is embedded with an ingestible sensor.

This transmits information to a wearable sensor that tracks whether the drug has been taken and displays it to patients and healthcare professionals.

Consumers are not so keen on operations conducted by robots, the study found – 36% of consumers were somewhat or not willing to undergo surgery from a robotic device, compared with 32% who were completely happy or likely to undergo robotic surgery.

Findings were based on research conducted last year involving 178 physicians and 2,031 consumers.

The study shows that 59% of physicians – a sample involving GPs and clinicians from primary care and hospitals – thought that video consultations would be an effective way of delivering better and more efficient outcomes for patients. But only 13% of physicians offer virtual visits.

However, 56% of physicians said that AI technologies will be “very likely or likely” to be commonly used in the next decade for diagnosis, medical imaging analysis, and medication management.

This aligned with the views of the consumers, of whom 51% said that AI was very likely or likely to be used for this purpose.

Physicians were also more likely to agree that companies outside the health industry will profoundly affect approaches to care – 69% of the physician group said this was very likely or likely compared with 51% of the consumer group.

There was also a differing message about the overall state of England’s health system – 55% of consumers rated its performance as excellent or very good, compared with 40% of physicians.

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