Thirty-eight percent said digital health literacy got in the way of telehealth access, opening the door for better patient outreach.
More than half of healthcare executives said the recent boom in telehealth care access has improved patient care, but more work is necessary to improve patient experience with the technology, according to new survey data from Boston Digital.
The survey of 500 healthcare executives looked at their sentiments about and experiences with telehealth and other healthcare technologies at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Telehealth in particular played a big role in managing the onset of the crisis, with providers across the country leaning on the tool to triage patients displaying COVID-19 symptoms, manage those with the novel coronavirus outside of the hospital, and maintain chronic disease management and primary care visits.
Fifty-seven percent of the survey respondents said telehealth adoption has improved patient care, the survey showed. Sixty-three percent said telehealth is very important to the organization’s strategy moving forward, 55 percent have created new telehealth portals to ease patient care access, and 40 percent agree the technology boom is here to stay.
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“Our survey indicates the habits and preferences that formed around telehealth during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic are, in large part, here to stay,” Peter Prodromou, president at Boston Digital, said in a statement.
“The implications for healthcare providers are profound as they rethink business plans to accommodate new expectations, including developing more robust digital presences for effective engagement,” he added. “It will be very interesting to see how these trends impact the historic long-term growth of healthcare spending and costs, as well as general wellness.”
That potential notwithstanding, there is much room for growth before telehealth truly improves patient experience, survey respondents indicated. Notable barriers to telehealth care access included patient abilities to use the technology, the survey showed.
“There has been much speculation about how patients would respond once they had the opportunity to schedule in-person appointments again,” Prodromou explained.
Thirty-eight percent of executive respondents said patient abilities to utilize telehealth technology was the biggest barrier to telehealth use and adoption. Only 8 percent of respondents said cost was a barrier and only 5 percent said regulatory barriers got in the way.
Note that regulatory barriers were not likely to be an issue during the height of the pandemic, as the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) eased certain restrictions, like HIPAA guidelines limiting what types of tools providers can use for telehealth and how telehealth services might be reimbursed.
Those eased regulations will be essential for promoting telehealth accessing moving forward, separate surveys have noted.
Instead, digital health literacy proved essential to getting patients to use telehealth and to creating a seamless patient experience, the Boston Digital survey showed.
Seventy-two percent of respondents also said having a mobile-optimized telehealth platform made it easier for patients to access telehealth and have a positive experience using it. Just over three-quarters of respondents (76 percent) said a good digital patient experience is important for overall patient satisfaction.
In anticipation of prolonged patient engagement technology use, healthcare organizations are revamping their marketing and patient outreach strategies. This is a part of their efforts to drive patient education about digital care access.
A total of 89 percent of respondents said they are going to invest in marketing and patient outreach in the next year, with half investing in social media marketing, 45 percent in email marketing, and 26 percent in paid media.
Thirty-five percent plan to lean on video patient communication and 49 percent on social media-based patient outreach, the survey showed.
This kind of patient outreach and care access marketing will be important for healthcare organizations that are leaning on new care delivery modalities. The novel coronavirus forced many organizations to leverage new patient engagement technologies, including remote patient monitoring, and tap old ones, like the patient portal, to remain connected.
Most providers think this tech-enabled care access, especially as supported by telehealth, is here to stay moving beyond the pandemic. Digital patient access to care is convenient, experts have found, and it will be hard to get the genie back into the proverbial bottle.
In a September Insights by Xtelligent Healthcare Media report, 79 percent of respondents agreed patients would continue to embrace telehealth once the COVID-19 crisis died out.
Ensuring patients know how to utilize these tools — or that telehealth and patient engagement technology are available at all — will be essential to creating a seamless digital experience.
Source: Patientengagement Hit