Survey: Consumers want telemedicine, but where and how to get it isn't always clear

By Heather Mack
Share

Telehealth may be seen as a convenient replacement or complement to in-person care, but many Americans remain confused as to whether their health provider offers the option, or if telehealth is covered by their insurer.

In a small survey by the American Telemedicine Association in partnership with Wego Health, 429 Americans were asked about their experience with telehealth. The survey was conducted online among users of the Wego health portal, demonstrating the respondents had some level of digital engagement with their healthcare.

While only 22 percent had used telehealth offerings to meet with a provider (with the majority interacting with the doctor via video conference while at home), the remaining 78 percent said they wanted to use telehealth, but either weren’t offered it or couldn’t find it.

Of the 78 percent of respondents who had not used telehealth in the last year, they were still well aware of its benefits. In fact, they wanted it even though their provider didn’t offer virtual appointments; citing ease of scheduling, increased access to care for patients who are immobile, and reduced travel time for all. Of this group, 73 percent said their healthcare provider didn’t offer telehealth, and a quarter of these respondents didn’t know where to find a health provider via video conferencing. A few (8 percent) were concerned about privacy.

Those who did use telehealth over traditional care said that it was more convenient, easy and that the quality of care was not an issue. Eighty-four percent of respondents reported they had used telehealth an average of one to four times over the past year. Half said that they initiated telehealth as an option over traditional care, while half said it was their doctor.

The most common use of telemedicine was for dermatology, with 56 percent of respondents using a smartphone or other camera to take a picture of a skin condition and email to the healthcare provider for consultation. Another 50 percent used it for video consultation for diagnosis or ongoing treatment of a healthcare condition, and 21 percent used video conferencing or a digital monitor to track blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar, weight, temperature, oxygen saturation or medication.

Convenience and accessibility were the most oft-cited reasons for choosing telehealth services, with 39 percent reporting an inability to get to a regular appointment due to schedule conflicts or no availability from their doctor and 35 percent citing distance and transportation as issues that made telehealth an easier choice.

“Clearly, consumers are not only becoming aware of telemedicine but starting to demand access to it,” Jonathan D. Linkous, CEO of American Telemedicine Association, said in a statement. “It is becoming a part of the standard of care that should be made available throughout the country.”