Two-thirds of patients are open to care access through telehealth, with most citing faster and more convenient care as the top draw.
Patients are increasingly open to the idea of using telehealth to access care, but barriers to use still remain, according to a new survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of American Well.
The survey, which included responses from nearly 2,000 adult patients, revealed that patients are warming to the conveniences and timely care access benefits that telehealth have to offer. With healthcare becoming increasingly consumer-centric, technology may help organizations adapt to patient needs and preferences.
“We, as providers, have an enormous opportunity to improve our patients’ experience by incorporating telehealth into their care journey,” said Peter Antall, MD, chief medical officer at American Well. “Oftentimes, patients are overwhelmed as to where the most appropriate care setting is, which results in patients making unnecessary ER visits or delaying doctor visits for critical issues. By offering tailored telemedicine programs to engage patients and deliver care, we can truly reach the Triple Aim—improvement in cost, care and patient experience.”
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Sixty-six percent of patients said they’d be willing to try a telehealth visit, and 8 percent reported that they already have, the survey showed. Sixty-one percent said they’d be open to using telehealth because they think it will be faster and more convenient than traditional healthcare modes, while 54 percent said they think it will be less costly.
One-quarter of respondents said they’d be open to leaving their current primary care providers to visit a doctor who uses telehealth.
Millennials may be the most enthusiastic about telehealth access, with over 70 percent of those ages 18 to 44 saying they are interested in using the technology. This younger patient cohort is three-times more likely to have already tried telehealth compared to other demographics, and 40 percent said they’d be open to using it to access behavioral and mental healthcare.
But older patients are also interested, the survey showed, underscoring their own preferences for faster and more convenient care. Of those senior patients who said they were interested in trying telehealth, nearly three-quarters said it was because they wanted to access their care faster.
As Medicare continues to integrate more telehealth reimbursement options into their plans, there will likely be more opportunities for senior patients to test out telehealth.
But barriers still apply, especially as they relate to telehealth payments. Seventeen percent of patients said they are willing to try virtual care but are not sure if their insurance provider would cover the care. Patients may need more guidance about how to access telehealth and how the care would be paid for to encourage more telehealth use.
This data comes as healthcare leaders work to overcome the top barriers to patient care access. Seventy percent of survey respondents said they have delayed care for a healthcare issue in the past.
And while the leading reason for doing so is because the patient thought the problem may mitigate itself, other barriers included care taking too long or costing too much. Telehealth may serve as a solution to that problem.
“We live in a technology-driven age where consumers want easy and quick access to services, and they are open to seeing their doctor via video. Thus, it’s even more critical for hospitals and health systems to rally providers, specialists and patients to use innovative technologies like telehealth to positively impact the overall patient experience,” said Stephen Spielman, senior vice president at Houston Methodist, a leading telehealth provider.
“Our physicians, employees and patients are embracing the convenience of telehealth. We have built a legacy of providing quality care for 100 years, and we expect to continue that legacy as we watch our telehealth program grow.”
In addition to an openness toward telehealth use, the survey showed that patients are also interested in using connected health technology. Two-thirds of respondents said they use personal health monitoring devices, and about half said they have adopted mobile health apps.
Younger patients are adopting exercise and nutrition apps, while older demographics are using pharmacy and health insurance apps to manage care and prescriptions.
Separate surveys showed similar results, revealing some patient interest in telehealth but considerable barriers to adoption. Recent data from JD Power, which plans to publish an extended telehealth use report later this fall, showed that less than 10 percent of patients have had a telehealth visit.
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.
“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,” said Greg Truex, the managing director of Health Intelligence at JD Power. “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.”
Date: September 02, 2019