Almost half (47%) of UK adults would be happy to be diagnosed remotely through digital health technology rather than face-to-face with a doctor, according to Aviva’s latest Health Check UK report. Men in particular are happy to replace a trip to the doctor with a digital diagnosis (53% versus 42% of women).
The growing appetite for digital health technology (including wearable health monitors, health advice mobile apps and video consultations with doctors) could remove the need for some doctor appointments and alleviate pressure on stretched healthcare services, helping the 58% of adults who struggle to get an appointment with a GP at a convenient time.
In a show of support for NHS plans to remotely monitor long-term illnesses, more than two thirds (67%) of UK adults agree they would be happy for a long-term medical condition (such as diabetes or heart disease) to be managed through remote digital monitoring. Those who are overweight (68%) or obese (71%) are particularly likely to be in favour of remote monitoring, perhaps as they are typically more likely to experience these types of illnesses.
Almost three in five adults (57%) agree digital health technology could improve their health or wellbeing, including 60% of overweight and 58% of obese people.
Although usage of wearable health technology – such as heart rate, symptom, or sleep pattern monitors worn as a bracelet or watch – is relatively low across the wider population, younger age groups are most active with this kind of technology. Almost one in six (15%) of those aged 25-34 use a physical activity monitor (compared to 8% overall) while 9% of 25-34s use a sleep pattern monitor (vs. 4% overall).
Among those adults who already use wearable technology, the majority report benefits to their health. For example, 63% of all age groups using a physical activity monitor say it has improved their health, rising to 66% of those with a heart rate monitor.
Many of those who are not currently using wearable health technology are open to doing so in the future. Three in five (60%) non-users would use a physical activity or heart rate monitor in the future, while 52% would consider using a sleep pattern monitor.
Table 1: Uptake of wearable health technology and the benefits to health
|Physical activity monitor||Heart rate monitor||Sleep pattern monitor|
|% of UK adults currently using this||8%||4%||4%|
|% who say this has improved their health||63%||66%||50%|
|% who don’t use now but would be open to doing so in the future||60%||60%||52%|
Healthcare technology used for prevention as well as cure
As well as diagnosing and managing health conditions, health technology can also be used to prevent avoidable illnesses caused by poor lifestyle choices. Almost four in five adults (78%) agree that avoidable illnesses are putting too much pressure on the NHS as obesity rates continue to rise.2
Using the internet to access information about health and wellbeing is already commonplace, with 63% using the internet for this purpose. However, there is growing appetite for mobile apps which can also be used to actively monitor and improve physical wellbeing. These include nutrition tracker apps, medication reminder apps and physical activity trackers, such as running apps which allow the user to log runs, monitor overall progress and set future goals.
Almost one in six (15%) use a physical activity tracker app and 46% would do so in the future, while one in ten (9%) use a nutrition or diet tracker app and 38% are open to doing so.
As interest in digital health technology increases, 55% believe the NHS should provide free health technology to help people play an active role in improving their own health.
Dr Doug Wright, Medical Director for Aviva UK Health says,
“As mobile apps and healthcare technology integrate into everyday life, growing numbers are willing to put their trust in digital help or diagnosis. Using technology to identify common illnesses or help manage a long-term condition can remove the need for a face-to-face GP appointment, alleviating pressure on doctors and freeing up time for more urgent health matters.
“At Aviva we already offer some of our corporate customers a virtual health service app – babylon – which gives them quick and convenient access to family GPs, specialist consultants, and state of the art health monitoring and treatment.
“Technology can also aid proactive health management, allowing us to track and improve our health to avoid developing certain conditions in the first place. Many of us will already have this technology in the palm of our hands, or waiting under the Christmas tree this December. As well as using technology for entertainment and social media, people could be using it to get a greater understanding and control of their health and fitness. “