One third of CVS MinuteClinic visitors prefer on-site telehealth to an in-person visit

By Jonah Comstock
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Correction: A previous version of this story misreported the percentage of people who said telehealth was worse than an inperson visit. That statistic is 1 percent, not 10 percent.

One third of CVS MinuteClinic telehealth users actually preferred a video visit to an in-person one, according to a survey of 1,700 MinuteClinic telehealth users conducted by CVS between January and September 2014 and published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

The telemedicine-equipped clinics each have HD video and audio tools on-site so that patients can talk to available Minute Clinic doctors at other clinics in-state, while a licensed vocational nurse in the room with the patient helps the remote doctor during the visit, according to a report in FierceHealthIT.

The survey was sent out to just over 3,300 patients who had seen a doctor via telehealth because the onsite MinuteClinic physician was busy. Of the 1,734 that actually filled out the survey, 70 percent were women. Forty-one percent had no other primary doctor. Participants were asked to rate their satisfaction with different parts of the telehealth visit, and then were asked whether they preferred it to an in-person visit, found it the same, or liked it less.

Thirty-three percent liked telehealth better than an in-person visit, 57 percent liked it just as well, and just 1 percent found it worse. Women were more likely to prefer telehealth, as were people without insurance and people who gave telehealth high scores for quality of care and convenience.

In terms of satisfaction with different parts of the telehealth visit, more than 95 percent of respondents were highly satisfied with quality of care they received, the ease with which technology was integrated into the visit, and the timeliness and convenience of their care.

"MinuteClinic has long been focused on providing accessible, high quality, affordable health care that is complementary and supportive of the primary care provider," Dr. Andrew Sussman, president of CVS MinuteClinic, and EVP, associate chief medical officer at CVS Health, said in a statement. "Telehealth provides us with an opportunity to offer convenient, high quality care to an extended group of patients and this data confirms that patients are highly satisfied with this new type of health care provider visit."

On a recent second quarter earnings call, CVS CEO and President Larry Merlo reported that, in Q2, CVS opened 11 new MinuteClinics to bring the company's total clinics operated to 997, located in 31 states and the District of Columbia. The telehealth program, still a pilot, has only been rolled out in California and Texas so far.

Merlo reported that MinuteClinic revenue is up 21 percent year over year since Q2 2014. The company just finished rolling out Epic's EHR in all of its clinics.