As consumerism continues to grow in healthcare, people are expecting a new model of care in which access and ease are a given. As a result, the use of telehealth and telemedicine have begun to grow rapidly, as individuals turn to their phones or computer screens to consult a doctor, rather than driving and waiting as a doctor’s office. 23% of respondents in a recent survey said they had tried a virtual visit, and 57% said they would be interested in using telehealth.

The benefits virtual care offers in terms of accessibility to care are obvious. Those in rural areas, without transportation, or without time to visit the doctor are able to get a diagnosis via a video visit, often without leaving their home. For aging populations who are unable to drive, this can also alleviate much of the hassle to get to a doctor’s office or hospital for a non-acute visit.

However, additional benefits for both patients and providers can come from the use of patient-generated health data (PGHD) during these visits. Nearly half of all Americans own a wearable device, and many Americans who are managing chronic conditions are also using home health devices, like glucometers or blood pressure meters, in addition.

When doctors have access to this information, they are better able to understand a patient’s symptoms and overall health. For example, if a patient generally averages 5,000 steps a day, but their data shows that in the past two days they have only taken 400 steps, a physician can understand the impact health is having on their daily lives and react accordingly. Likewise, if a doctor sees that a patient’s blood glucose is at an unsafe level, they can intervene accordingly, without the guesswork and without relying solely on patient-reported symptoms and data.

Because many telehealth visits often involve a patient and provider meeting for the first time to address an acute issue, PGHD can provide important background information regarding a patient’s typical behavior and overall health outside of the doctor’s office. When a physician has access to this information, in addition to information gleaned from a conversation with a patient, they have a better understanding of the issue and can more confidently approach next steps.

One-off, acute virtual visits can be a challenge for physicians when a patient is new to them and they are unfamiliar with the person’s health and behavior outside of the visit and what their patient chart may tell them. By integrating PGHD into the point of care for virtual visits, doctors can glean a deeper understanding of a patient and can more accurately intervene, diagnose, and provide suggestions for next steps.

Considering that 96% of large employers in the U.S. now offer their employees access to telemedicine, and compounded with growing consumerism in healthcare driving individuals to choose care services which are easier and more accessible, it is likely that the use of telehealth by consumers will grow. In order for providers to get the most complete picture of the patients they serve, the availability and use of PGHD is critical.

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