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Survey Finds Majority of Consumers Open to Telehealth

National telehealth leader American Well recently announced the findings of its Telehealth Index: 2019 Consumer Survey. The results show that 66% of Americans are willing to use telehealth, and 8% have had a telehealth visit with a doctor. While consumers value and recognize telehealth for its convenience, fast service, and cost savings, 17% of consumers willing to try virtual care are not sure whether their insurance plans cover the service, reaffirming the industry need for increased consumer education and awareness around telehealth’s availability and value.

“We, as providers, have an enormous opportunity to improve our patients’ experience by incorporating telehealth into their care journey,” says 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 [emergency department] 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.”

American Well commissioned Harris Poll to conduct an online study among more than 2,000 adults to measure usage and sentiment toward telehealth. The results are weighted to be representative of the American adult population across standard demographics.

Key findings of the survey include the following:

• Convenience and cost drive adoption, but lack of awareness is an issue. Of those who indicate they are willing to use telehealth, 61% say they’d use it for convenience and faster service and 54% say they’d use it to save money. Moreover, 25% of respondents report they’d switch from their current primary care physician to a doctor offering video visits.

• Millennials lead the way with telehealth usage. Findings show that Millennials are most motivated by telehealth’s convenience, with 74% of 18- to 34-year-olds and 72% of 35- to 44-year-olds saying they are willing to use the technology. Millennials are nearly three times as likely to have had a video visit with a doctor compared with other demographics. Moreover, nearly 40% of Millennials say they would regularly use telehealth for behavioral health management, also higher than any other age demographic.

• Don’t rule out older adults when it comes to virtual care. Today’s older adults don’t want to wait for care, whether at the point of scheduling or at the point of service. That’s one reason why 73% of older adults who are willing to try telehealth point to faster service as the biggest motivator—higher than any other generation. With additional telehealth reimbursement for Medicare beneficiaries participating in Medicare Advantage plans beginning in 2020, there is an increasing opportunity to support older adults’ use of telehealth to manage chronic conditions and for prescription renewals.

• No matter their age, consumers delay care because it takes too long to see a doctor and due to cost. Seventy percent of consumers report that they have delayed seeking care for a health problem. While the most common reason for delaying care is that patients “thought the problem would go away,” the second and third most common reasons are that it “takes too long to see [the] doctor” and “cost.” Higher awareness of telehealth availability could potentially decrease the rates of delayed care.

• Adoption of personal health monitoring devices and health apps is increasing. Two-thirds of consumers use personal health monitoring devices and 51% report using mobile health apps. While millennials are more likely to use health apps for nutrition and workouts, older generations are more likely to engage with their pharmacy and health insurance apps.

“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,” says Stephen Spielman, senior vice president of Houston Methodist. “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.”

Adds Roy Schoenberg, MD, MPH, CEO at American Well, “The industry recognizes telehealth’s enormous potential, and analysts continue to indicate its market growth in the coming years. At American Well, it’s our goal to work alongside our provider and health plan partners to identify what patients value when it comes to telehealth. Through this survey, we’ve learned that consumers see value in telehealth and want to use it for a variety of reasons—urgent care, behavioral health, and chronic care management, to name a few. We will continue to work tirelessly alongside our partners to close the gap between telehealth accessibility and adoption, pointing to successful use cases that show its potential to increase patient satisfaction and provide the best care outcomes.”

To access the full Consumer Telehealth Index dataset and eBook, visit www.americanwell.com/resources/telehealth-index-2019-consumer-survey.

— Source: American Well