Australians are calling on general practitioners to break with the traditional patient-doctor experience, and improve the use of technology and digital communication as they seek to take more control over their own health.
According to the CommBank GP Insights Report, while a majority of Australians rate their experience of visiting a GP as positive overall, more than a quarter (28 per cent) of patients are unhappy with their ability to communicate directly with GPs – the top area of dissatisfaction ahead of wait times and the ability to communicate directly with support staff.
According to the majority of patients surveyed, the most appealing forms of digital communications include:
- notifications around appointment delays (92 per cent of patients);
- appointment reminders via SMS or email (91 per cent);
- book and manage appointments online (89 per cent);
- access medical records and test results online (86 per cent)
Less popular options for digital communication are video conferencing to communicate with doctors (49 per cent) and being able to contact a practice via social media (36 per cent).
However, while most practices have embraced technology, such as appointment reminders via email or SMS, the research found a significant gap with patients’ awareness of these communication channels. For instance, only 45 per cent of patients say they are aware their GP offers personalised appointment reminders, despite 71 per cent of practices offering the service.
The use of wearable technology and mobile apps - such as sleep monitors and weight apps to promote better health – were found to be especially popular with younger patients. However the report found that of the 41 per cent of patients using health or fitness technology, only 22 per cent are sharing the data with their GP. Amongst patients who share their information, 57 per cent say their GP has used this data to provide medical advice or develop a healthcare plan.
The research also found that some practices are reluctant to recommend this technology, with half saying they are concerned patients would not understand the technology, and 41 per cent saying they feel the information is not trustworthy or accurate; 37 per cent of practices also have concerns about the security of personal data. The report does note that given technological advancements, ‘these concerns may alleviate for practices over time.’
In other findings, while an overwhelming number of Australians rate their experience of visiting the GP as positive overall, with 94 per cent either satisfied or very satisfied, the levels of satisfaction varies across the generations. The area of greatest satisfaction was the quality of care provided by GPs, with 96 per cent of patients claiming to be satisfied or very satisfied.
Almost three in four people (73 per cent) aged over 72 indicated they are very satisfied, dropping to 55 per cent of Baby Boomers (aged 53-71). Satisfaction dropped again with younger Australians with only one in three (34 per cent) of Gen Y (aged 24-36) and 31 per cent of Gen Z (aged 18-23) saying they were very satisfied with their GP experience.
Cameron Ziebell, National Head of Healthcare, Commonwealth Bank, said: “Australian GPs are clearly delivering an outstanding level of care, helping to maintain high levels of health among the Australian population and ensuring our healthcare system remains as one of the world’s best.”
“With patients now accustomed to a very high quality of care, we are seeing other factors such as technology and digital communications playing a bigger role in shaping what Australians expect from their GPs. This is particularly true for the younger generations, with 92 per cent of Gen Z agreeing that adopting the latest technology delivers a better practice experience, falling to 72 per cent for Baby Boomers and just 64 per cent for Pre-Boomers.”
In many cases, GPs are responding to patient demand for these digital services, with 85 per cent of practices set to increase their technology investment over the next two years. The key areas of focus for GPs are introducing notifications of appointment delays, digital check-in services and remote monitoring of patient’s health. Just over 30 per cent of practices already offer or plan to offer within the next two years an online portal to enable patients to check their medical reports or test results.
“We are seeing a focus on GPs getting the basics right, which is often around ensuring that patients have access to convenient online appointment booking and reminders. Despite many GPs looking to adopt new technology solutions in areas such as giving patients access to medical records or direct communications channels, current adoption levels remain very low,” Mr Ziebell said.
“Our research also confirms that 98 per cent of GPs are seeking to maintain or grow their revenues, and while there is increasing demand on primary health providers, the number of GPs setting up new practices is outpacing population growth.”
“To achieve growth in a highly competitive environment, GPs will need to further embrace technology-led improvements to their interactions with patients as this is set to be the new battleground for attracting new patients or fostering loyalty,” Mr Ziebell added.
The full CommBank GP Insights Report can be downloaded here.
About the Commonwealth Bank GP Insights Report
The GP Insights Report examines the latest trends in General Practice and patient perceptions, with a focus on the changing nature of the patient experience, and use of technology and communications solutions within primary healthcare.
The report is based on a survey of 763 Australian patients that have visited a General Practice over the last three months, and 250 influencers within General Practice in Australia including business owners, General Practitioners, practice managers and nurse practitioners).