Here are doctors' 4 biggest needs, and how technology companies can address them

Doctor computer keyboard
Getty/jacoblund

The COVID-19 pandemic has driven rapid adoption of digital health technologies, and doctors see the potential for innovations like augmented intelligence to play a bigger role in care delivery in the next five years.

But to ensure the digital health boom lasts beyond the pandemic, physicians say these technologies need to address their biggest needs around interoperability and improved workflow, according to a recent report from Deloitte.

The rapid rollout of virtual health in response to the outbreak offers some useful lessons on the physician adoption of digital technologies, according to the report.

Interoperability: Nearly 85% of physicians anticipate secure and efficient sharing of patient data, and 83% believe that patient-generated data will be integrated into care delivery in the next five to 10 years, according to Deloitte's survey of 680 U.S. primary care and specialty physicians.

Doctors reported that other advances—such as artificial intelligence, virtually conducted robotic surgery or hospital-at-home—are less likely to see wide adoption in the same time frame.

According to the survey, physicians view interoperability as an essential enabler for other innovation. For medical technology developers to meet this need, new information technologies should offer compelling and easy-to-use interfaces and must integrate seamlessly with existing EHR and clinical systems in a vendor-agnostic way, the Deloitte report said.

Failing to do so could force customers to look for homegrown or third-party plug-ins, increasing their costs, compromising data transfer, and diminishing the value of medtech products.

RELATED: Tech experts: Widespread adoption of telemedicine, remote monitoring 'here to stay'

Improved workflow: More than 60% of physicians also said their greatest need today is improving routine processes in the clinical practice. Almost three-quarters (73%) said advanced technologies such as AI and robotic process automation could save significant time and resources, while 49% said they could increase job satisfaction.

But physicians’ tolerance for poorly designed, difficult-to-use solutions that detract from patient interactions is waning, the report said. To that end, manufacturers should focus on how their products can create value for patients, providers and payers. 

RELATED: The COVID-19 pandemic will have a long-term impact on healthcare. Here are 4 changes to expect

Automation: Doctors also are enthusiastic about the potential for augmented intelligence. Just over half (54%) of surveyed physicians expect machines will read and interpret routine medical images despite some uncertainty in the technology relative to the others mentioned. However, 64% expect AI will help predict and diagnose disease as well as prevent acute events.

At the very least, 61% believe that AI, along with augmented and virtual reality, sensors and remote care, will help consumers modify their behaviors and take control of their personal well-being.

Medtech manufacturers should focus on products that automate some aspects of the work and augment existing skills rather than replace tasks that humans enjoy and are good at, the report said. 

Data security: Physicians have many unanswered questions around cybersecurity and the integrity of the algorithms behind advanced technology solutions.

Sixty-nine percent of physicians wanted to know who is liable when a medical error occurs in connection with using technology for care, and 47% wondered about vulnerability to cyberattacks.

Moving forward, technology developers should ensure their products meet current cybersecurity requirements and offer assurances of continued ability to do so in the future. They should also transparently communicate how their algorithms work and ensure ongoing validation by academia, regulators and independent third parties.

Delivering products and services tailored to physicians’ top four needs can not only facilitate adoption but also heighten impact, the report said.