Most patients aren’t aware of the telehealth options available to them or can’t utilize the technology to have an e-consult.
Telehealth may not be filling the patient care access gap many expected it to, as nearly three-quarters of Americans say they aren’t even aware of telehealth options or don’t have access to the technology, according to new data from JD Power.
The survey results, which come as a part of a larger study on telehealth that JD Power plans to release later this fall, outlines the slow adoption of telehealth across the country. Although healthcare professionals have leaned on telehealth to fill in patient care access gaps and have pointed to the tool to drive convenient care, patient use is falling behind.
Only 9.6 percent of Americans have used telehealth to access care, the researchers said. Instead, most patients can’t access the technology or aren’t sure if it’s available to them. Just under 40 percent of patients could report that their health plan or provider did not offer access to telehealth services, while 34 percent of respondents said they were unsure whether they can access the technology.
Ironically, knowledge about and use of telehealth is lowest in rural areas. This comes even as industry professionals tout telehealth as the key to closing care access gaps in rural America.
Seventy-two percent of patients in rural areas said they don’t know if they can access telehealth. Only 8.7 percent of rural patients have adopted telehealth to gain access to care, compared to 11 percent and 12 percent in suburban and urban areas, respectively.
There were also adoption disparities between either coast. In the west, over 11 percent of patients have used telehealth, while just over 5 percent of patients have used the tools in the northeast.
The survey revealed other trends among telehealth adopters, including differences according to age. Unsurprisingly, the 18 to 24 age cohort was more likely to have used telehealth than any other age group, with 13 percent of them having used the technology.
Also as expected, only 5 percent of those over age 65 have used telehealth, which is the lowest rate of adoption.
Eleven percent of patients ages 35 to 44 have used telehealth, the second highest rate of adoption, the team said.
Women were also more likely to have used the technology than men, the survey added, with 10.4 percent of females and 8.7 percent of males saying they have used telehealth.
Limited knowledge about telehealth is not all that is keeping slow adopters from using the tool, the survey revealed. Patients also harbor concerns about care quality, stating that they it’s more likely they will have a positive care experience during an in-person office visit than over telehealth.
Just under half of all patients said the quality of care delivered via telehealth is lower than that delivered during an in-person appointment. About 45 percent of patients said they think the quality of care would be the same between telehealth and in-person care, while only 6 percent said care quality is probably better via telehealth.
Forty-three percent of patient respondents added that they believed telehealth visits to lack the personal touch that office visits have.
These results indicate that the healthcare industry needs to do more to make patients feel comfortable with telehealth technology, according to Greg Truex, the managing director of Health Intelligence at JD Power. Telehealth has proven effective at diagnosing patients and treating them remotely, but garnering patient trust will be crucial to widespread use.
“Telehealth technology is maturing, but the relatively low levels of engagement we’re seeing implies that major initiatives in both patient education and consumer experience are the next steps in making Telehealth a staple for healthcare delivery in the United States,” Truex said in statement. “For patients that stand to gain the most from healthcare, telehealth needs to be promoted as a way to reduce costs to both the healthcare system and consumers, all while maintaining a high level of care.”
Some healthcare organizations have begun to engender patient trust in telehealth by creating telehealth training programs. Training programs outline the best professional attire providers can wear during telehealth consults, how to maintain eye contact with the patient through a webcam, and promoting confidence in care quality.
Ensuring providers understand the best practices for treating a patient remotely will help engender patient trust and ultimately make telehealth a more useful patient care access tool.
Date: August 2, 2019
Source: Patient Engagement Hit