Only 20 percent of patients think telehealth could promote better access to care and alleviate primary care access burdens.
Patients may need more information about telehealth and how it can improve access to care and alleviate some of the barriers that keep patients out of the primary care office, according to new data from Doctor on Demand.
The survey of 1,000 patient respondents revealed that most patients understand the importance of primary care access. Seventy percent of patients said they knew the integral role primary care providers play in patient health and acknowledged that primary care providers treat a wide scope of health needs, including chronic disease, stress, and anxiety.
Eighty-five percent of patient respondents said they knew that their primary care providers had a holistic view of patient health.
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Nonetheless, more than 25 percent of patients said they do not visit their primary care provider for ongoing or preventive care. Instead, nearly 80 percent said they only go to the doctor when they have an acute care need.
Patients are likely staying away from the primary care provider, at least for preventive care, because it’s too cumbersome, the researchers said. Patients said they do not have the time to make an appointment, to travel to the doctor’s office, and wait for the appointment to begin.
Respondents likewise said cost was a significant burden that impeded patient care access. Others said preventive care visits were not worth the investment.
Telehealth could make primary care access easier by connecting patients with primary care providers in the comfort of patients’ own homes. Telehealth, which can in some cases be more convenient and less costly for patients, could be the solution to limited primary care access.
But that isn’t likely to happen, at least not until more patients learn about what telehealth can offer. Only 20 percent of patients said they believed telehealth visits could improve access to primary care.
Instead, more than 60 percent of patients said they believed telehealth was only for quick, one-off treatment for acute care needs. Some patients even said they thought virtual care simply constituted speaking with their doctors over the telephone, something many respondents did not regard as valuable.
Another 62 percent of respondents said they weren’t sure if their payers covered virtual visits, highlighting a communication pitfall between patient and payer.
The cause is not necessarily lost, the survey continued. While 70 percent of patients questioned the depth of a patient-provider relationship built via text message, 60 percent did agree that they could build meaningful relationships with their providers via video visit.
Additionally, 60 percent of patients said they would consider using telehealth if their payers covered the service.
Helping patients to understand the benefits of telehealth and to navigate the virtual visits space could help promote patient access to care, experts agree.
Separate survey data from the National Poll on Healthy Aging revealed similar findings, suggesting that promoting telehealth patient education could motivate more senior patients to use the tool.
Nearly 80 percent of patients ages 50 to 80 harbor at least one concern about telehealth access, revealing to medical professionals that patients may need more education about the technology.
“As telehealth finally appears poised to live up to its potential, with insurance reimbursement in place or set to begin soon under many plans, and providers increasingly investing in systems, these poll data show a need to focus on the patient side,” says Jacob Kurlander, MD, MS, a U-M and VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System gastroenterology specialist and telehealth researcher who helped lead the poll. “As the industry moves forward, we should heed the concerns and preferences of our patients, especially those over age 50, who use the most health care.”
Date: October 10, 2019
Source: Patient Engagement Hit