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Analysis

Patients Eager to Embrace Telemedicine, New Survey Finds

By Christopher Cheney  
   July 28, 2020

Healthcare providers who offer a seamless telehealth experience have a competitive advantage.

Patients are embracing telemedicine during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, according to a new survey report.

With patients fearful of coronavirus infection during in-person visits with clinicians, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated adoption of telemedicine capabilities at health systems, hospitals, and physician practices. In 2020, telemedicine is projected to experience 64.3% year-over-year growth, according to Imaging Technology News.

The new telemedicine survey report, which was published by DocASAP, is based on information collected from 1,000 consumers last month. The survey report includes several key data points:

  • Emergency rooms and urgent care centers (12%) were at the bottom of the list of facilities where consumers felt safe: grocery store, 42%; pharmacy, 37%; hospital, 32%; doctor's office, 26%; work office, 20%; public transportation, 13%
     
  • 43% of survey respondents said they would not feel safe visiting any healthcare setting until at least the fall
     
  • 68% of survey respondents had cancelled or postponed an in-person medical visit during the pandemic
     
  • 50% of survey respondents had scheduled a telehealth visit online
     
  • 40% of survey respondents have had a telemedicine appointment
     
  • 91% of survey respondents who have had a telehealth appointment were likely to schedule another telehealth appointment instead of an in-person visit
     
  • 40% of survey respondents said easy access to quality care would influence their decision to schedule a telehealth visit
     
  • 45% of survey respondents said whether healthcare providers offered telehealth services would impact their desire to use those healthcare providers
     
  • The Top 3 factors that survey respondents said would influence their decision to schedule a telehealth visit were coronavirus safety concerns (47%), whether the telehealth visit was covered by insurance (43%), and the ease of accessing quality care (40%)
     
  • Survey respondents said the Top 4 most satisfying elements of their telehealth visits were appointment wait time (38%), pre-appointment communication (33%), the quality of the video or audio technology (33%), and providing health insurance information (31%)
     
  • The Top 6 appointment-related activities consumers would prefer to do online were scheduling appointments (45%), checking symptoms before a visit (42%), checking the cost of a visit (32%), completing intake forms (32%), providing insurance information (29%), and receiving directions to prepare for a visit (29%)
     
  • More than 90% of survey respondents said they were satisfied with their overall telehealth visit experience

"Consumers today are looking for convenience, transparency, and efficiency in all their transactions, including healthcare. Those providers that offer a seamless telehealth experience from scheduling to follow-up will earn a competitive advantage," the survey report says.

Interpreting the data

DocASAP CEO Puneet Maheshwari, MBA, told HealthLeaders that increased use of telemedicine is part of the new normal and will continue to be popular with patients well into the future.

"Across all demographics, for certain types of visits, we are seeing that patients are finding telemedicine more convenient and efficient than in-person visits. From our survey, we see that an overwhelming majority of respondents (91%) who have had a telehealth appointment said they are more likely to schedule a telehealth appointment instead of an in-person visit in the future. Furthermore, nearly half of all respondents (45%) said if a provider offers telehealth appointments, it would influence their decision to use them," he said.

Healthcare providers, patients, and payers are aligned when it comes to telemedicine, Maheshwari said.

"Providers are now readily adopting telemedicine tools and technologies to accommodate patients in the new normal of healthcare. How thoroughly telemedicine is being adopted by providers—as well as to what degree payers continue to support it—will determine if this trend is sustainable. I am confident, though. It is not often you see patients, providers, and payers advocating for the same thing."

Primary care is a good fit for telemedicine, he said.

"We expect virtual services to play a broader role in primary care, including both preventative care and chronic care management. With tools such as automatic symptom checking and triaging capabilities to virtual care delivery with video, digital solutions will complement in-person visits. Going forward, we believe that close to 50% of primary care visits could be done virtually."

The expansion of telemedicine is part of a paradigm shift in healthcare, Maheshwari said.

"Overall, the care delivery model is going to evolve from a traditional scheduled-based model to an event-based model. Consumers will get care when and how they need it. For example, historically if a patient needed care, he or she would typically schedule an appointment with a long lead time. But, with increased capacity due to the efficiency of telemedicine, providers can handle more patients. Thus, consumers will be proactively redirected to the right provider and setting based on their specific healthcare event."

As the telemedicine landscape evolves, healthcare organizations are likely to view telehealth services as an integral component of care delivery rather than a standalone capability, he said.

"Incorporating telemedicine into health systems' end-to-end care delivery model will drive efficiency and effectiveness. It's not simply about the technology. It's about redefining care delivery, programs, and models to capitalize on this new trend of telemedicine while learning to use technology in a more effective manner to help facilitate better outcomes and experiences."

Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care​ editor at HealthLeaders.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

According to a new survey, 68% of patients have cancelled or postponed an in-person medical visit during the coronavirus pandemic.

About 90% of survey respondents who have had a telehealth appointment are likely to schedule another telehealth appointment instead of an in-person visit.

Only 12% of survey respondents said they would feel safe visiting an emergency room or urgent care center during the pandemic.


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