Three-quarters of patients reported telehealth patient satisfaction, while others said they planned to use the technology after the COVID-19 surge.
Nearly three-quarters of patients accessed their first-ever telehealth visit during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and most of them reported high patient satisfaction with the experience, according to a new survey of 1,000 patients conducted by Wakefield Research on behalf of Kyruus.
However, as healthcare professionals move forward with telehealth visits as a part of the post-pandemic new normal of healthcare delivery, they will need to focus on patient appointment scheduling, virtual follow-up care strategies, and care coordination across virtual delivery models.
The COVID-19 pandemic was a boon for telehealth. As patients hunkered down at home both to adhere to stay-at-home orders and avoid high-touch areas where the virus could spread, healthcare organizations shut down access to non-urgent care and elective procedures. But in many cases, that did not mean patient access to care was entirely canceled.
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Instead, healthcare organizations turned to telehealth as a remote strategy to continue to manage care.
And they were successful. Across the country, organizations ranging from large academic medical centers to independent physician practices worked to pivot their telehealth strategies to meet a higher patient volume than ever before.
According to the survey, these visits were the first telehealth experience for nearly three-quarters of patients, and organizations met expectations for a good patient experience. Seventy-five percent of patients expressed satisfaction with their telehealth visits.
By and large, patients were utilizing telehealth to fill in low-acuity care access gaps. Forty-one percent used telehealth for a wellness visit and 30 percent for chronic disease management. Fewer patients used telehealth for acute care needs or mental health (20 percent), and only 14 percent used the technology to check in on COVID-19 symptoms.
Moving forward, patients expect telehealth to become a standard part of healthcare access. Fifty percent said they would be willing to switch healthcare providers if it meant they would be able to continue accessing telehealth regularly.
And what’s more, patients are willing to pay for the service. Twenty-one percent said they’d access telehealth on a limited basis even if their insurance did not cover it, while 28 percent said they would whenever possible.
It should be noted that healthcare payers are cognizant of consumer excitement around telehealth. A number of healthcare payers have already announced they will make their telehealth reimbursement plans permanent even after the pandemic.
Patients generally plan to continue using telehealth for the same care needs as during the pandemic. Sixty percent want telehealth access for wellness checks, while 58 percent would access it for surgery- or procedure-related visits, like pre-op or follow-up care. Another 58 percent would use telehealth for COVID-19 symptoms.
But as healthcare organizations ramp up plans in anticipation of continued patient favor for telehealth, there are a few areas where they can improve their services.
For example, 54 percent of survey respondents said they would prefer online appointment scheduling. This was true for 72 percent of GenXers, 64 percent of Millennials, but only 38 percent of Baby Boomers.
During this first COVID-19 surge, only 30 percent of patients said they booked their telehealth visits online.
Additionally, organizations would benefit from upping their virtual post-discharge and follow-up plans. Fewer than half of respondents felt they understood the next steps in their care after a telehealth visit, specifically saying they don’t know how they could access virtual or telehealth care again in the future.
These survey findings reflect others from across the industry. June 2020 survey data from Doctor.com showed that 83 percent of patients anticipate long-term telehealth care access. Nearly half of the 1,800 survey respondents said they used telehealth during the first COVID-19 surge, and 83 percent anticipated they would continue using it even after the virus dies down.
The survey showed that telehealth can help providers fill the current chronic disease management gap and offer some semblance of treatment. Ninety-one percent of patients said telehealth would help them stick to a health visit schedule and manage their prescription medications. Meanwhile, 93 percent said telehealth would help them learn about new medication options that are available to them.
This survey data adds to a long list of both qualitative and quantitative evidence suggesting that telehealth is here to stay. Anecdotally, medical providers who have pivoted to telehealth to continue patient care access have pointed out that the technology is convenient for patients and drives satisfaction. Even after the pandemic subsides, most experts predict there will be continued demand for telehealth care access.
Source: Patientengagement Hit