Convenience may override loyalty when it comes to sticking with a primary care physician, and those that offer telehealth may fare better in keeping their patients than those who don’t. In fact, many would switch to a new doctor altogether if they offered telehealth services, especially video visits, according to a new survey by telehealth company American Well.
In a poll over more than 4,100 consumers (conducted via two online surveys by Harris Poll), most say they are ready for telehealth technology and are actively seeking it out, and 20 percent said they would switch their current doctor for one who offered telehealth services. Among survey respondents with a primary care physician, 65 percent said they are interested in seeing them over video. For people with children, that number gets even higher – 74 percent said they would like to see their doctor through telehealth.
“Consumers are clearly interested in more convenient access to healthcare – and increasingly, they are even willing to switch providers to get internet video service,” American Well Chief Marketing Officer Mary Modahl said in a statement. “Not only that, but consumers are willing to try telehealth for many needs – from chronic conditions to post-discharge follow up.”
As telehealth expands in the United States, consumers are more trusting of the technology. When asked which of three options they would prefer – video, telephone or email – 69 percent of respondents said they felt video visits offered the most accurate diagnosis, versus 26 percent who said phone calls and 5 percent who said email.
One of the main appeals of telehealth is, simply, getting patients care faster and easier. Most survey respondents (67 percent) said they have delayed seeking care, citing high costs, the difficulty in getting an appointment in a timely manner, being too busy, or just thinking the problem may go away on its own. While only eight 8 percent of respondents delayed care for a serious health issue, not seeking care can still lead to negative ramifications in the form of missed preventive exams or vaccinations. What’s more, patients and physicians alike miss out on educational opportunities from one another.
Consumers also see many applications for telehealth, beyond common afflictions like a rash, cold or sore throat. Of those surveyed, 60 percent said they would be will to have online video visits with a doctor for regular check-ins about a chronic condition such as diabetes or heart disease.
“Consider the high cost of treating chronic conditions and it’s easy to see how telehealth could have a significant impact on solving this challenge,” the report states. “Because it can be time-consuming and costly for a patient to adhere to a treatment regimen for a chronic condition, telehealth has the potential to encourage more frequent visits and allow doctors, specialists and coaches to make adjustments that improve quality of life.”
Another application for telehealth is for patients who have recently been discharged from the hospital. Since many people end up readmitted due to preventable occurances like infection or medication adherence issues, telehealth could mitigate these factors. Fifty-two percent of respondents said they are willing to have online video visits as a follow-up to surgery or a hospital stay.
Other areas consumers are willing to embrace video visits are for prescription refills, with 78 percent of respondents saying they want them; for care in the middle of the night, when 20 percent said they would use a video visit over going to the ER; for coordinating care for an elderly parent or relative, a circumstance where 79 percent of respondents said they would find video visits helpful.
“Consumers are open to seeing a doctor via video, and they believe it’s an effective way to solve their health concerns,” the report states. “U.S. adults reported that their healthcare concerns were completely resolved 64 percent of the time when in a brick and mortar setting. Data from American Well’s telehealth service shows patients were able to resolve their healthcare needs 85 percent of the time. As video visits continue to perform at or above the level of care at a doctor’s office, consumer trust in video visits will continue to increase.”