Recent Survey Reveals Key Patient Perception & Usage of Telehealth

By David Fetterolf, Stratus Video President

American Well recently commissioned Harris Poll to conduct an online study on consumer perception and usage of telehealth. The survey titled, 2019 Telehealth Index: Consumer Telehealth Trends and Usage by Age Demographic, included input from over 2000 adults. Findings revealed great insight into how different age groups value telehealth services, and how healthcare providers can adapt their telehealth programs to fulfill patient needs.

Key topics of discussion from the index include:

  • The gap between patients’ willingness to use telehealth & actual usage

  • How the usage of telehealth varies among age cohorts

The Gap Between Willingness & Usage

Both the number of patients who are willing to use telehealth and the number of patients who have utilized telehealth have increased considerably in recent years.There still, however, is a large gap between the two numbers. The 2019 index revealed over 65% of consumers are willing to use telehealth, and less than 10% have tried it. Key factors impacting telehealth willingness include household income, education and employment. Top reasons to utilize telehealth services include savings and convenience,  prescription renewal, chronic disease management, surgery and in-patient follow up.

Another number that demonstrates an increase in willingness to use telehealth is the number of consumers who would switch PCPs in order to use telehealth programs. That number jumped from 50 to 64 million from 2017 to 2019. Despite this great increase in willingness, many patients remain unaware as to what telehealth programs are available and how they can be utilized. Effective communication about the availability of telehealth programs is essential to increase both utilization and access to care.

Different Age Group Perceptions & Values

The index revealed in depth insight into how different aged patient populations perceive and value telehealth. Older populations see great value in chronic disease management and in-patient follow up care. The ability to use technology versus taking time to physically go to a doctor’s office for chronic disease management is very appealing for older patients. For surgery and in-patient follow up care, telehealth helps ensure patients understand home care instructions and have the tools they need for a successful recovery.

Middle aged patients cited urgent care as the number one reason to use telehealth. Often with both children and aging parents in need of healthcare, middle aged patients value the ability to be able to consult with an urgent care provider over video prior to coming into an urgent care center or emergency hospital. By having urgent care services available via telehealth, hospitals can divert overutilization of the ER. Urgent care telehealth programs that include education for patients on when a trip to the ER may not be necessary and when telehealth is recommended as an alternative are more likely to be utilized.

The millennial cohort recognize the value of mental health visits over video. By being able to access a mental health professional over video, the stigma that is associated with receiving care for a mental health condition is greatly reduced. Other barriers to receiving care, such as missed work or school, are also overcome via telehealth. Many mental health programs offer the ability to consult with a therapist after or before work hours, meaning more patients in need of mental health services can access them. This is important, as the prevalence of mental health in the millennial cohort is on the rise.    

The 2019 Telehealth Index: Consumer Telehealth Trends and Usage by Age Demographic revealed great insight into how patients perceive and utilize telehealth as well as some of the barriers that prevent patients from accessing care. Healthcare facilities can increase telehealth utilization by adapting programs to fulfill patient needs and spreading awareness to each age cohort on the availability of services. Learn more about the latest trends in telehealth by downloading the full index here.

To achieve health equity, telehealth programs must be available to all patients including limited English proficient patients. Stratus Video interpreters can now support telehealth calls through Stratus Link. Learn more.

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