In a new survey of American adults, a quarter of respondents said they would be willing to switch to a new primary care provider offering the technology.

Two-thirds of consumers say they're interested in telehealth, but far fewer have given it a try

By Dave Muoio
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While roughly two in three American adult consumers say they would be willing to receive care via telehealth services, just 8% report having ever having a video visit with a doctor, according to survey data from telehealth American Well published yesterday in a white paper.

The company commissioned Harris Poll to conduct an online survey more than 2,000 adults, the responses of which were collected in December 2018 and “weighted to be representative of the American adult population across standard demographics.”

Among these respondents, willingness to use telehealth was greatest among those aged 18 years to 34 years (74%) and those aged 35 years to 44 years (72%). Interest was lowest among seniors aged 65 years or older (52%).

Experience with the technology ranged from 16% among that youngest demographic, to 1% among the senior population. Telehealth use was roughly equal among male and female respondents, but was greatest among respondents living in either the south or southeast parts of the country.

The survey also highlighted a handful of drivers behind respondents’ interest in the technology. Here, 61% who said they would use telehealth cited convenience and more prompt service while 54% were interested in cheaper care. The former was especially valued by those 65 years and older (73%), although this same population was on the lower end when gauging the draw of convenient visits (57%).

Additionally, seniors were the most likely demographic to report telehealth use for prescription renewals (84% versus 72% overall), chronic disease management (67% versus 56% overall). Meanwhile, urgent care telehealth visits were most valued by those aged 45 years to 54 years (47%), while those aged 18 years to 34 years cited mental health care (38%) more frequently than the other demographics.

WHY IT MATTERS

For telehealth providers such as the survey’s sponsor, these results highlight the use cases consumers of varying age demographics are seeking most.

“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,” American Well CEO Roy Schoenberg said in a statement. “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.”

Outside of the top-level disconnect between interest and actual use, there is one stat in particular providers should make note of — the 25% of respondents who said that they would be willing to switch from their primary care provider to another offering telehealth visits.

“By encouraging more physicians to utilize telehealth, health systems can retain existing patients and attract new ones,” the white paper reads. “If your physicians are using telehealth, most consumers probably do not know it. Strategically marketing this information to existing patients will drive better utilization and possibility increase patient retention.”

THE LARGER TREND

Telehealth services are steadily increasing their market presence, with traditional practices, mail-order wellness services and even travel apps offering their take on the technology. The FCC is continuing to move forward with its $100 million rural telehealth pilot, while another market survey (again backed by American Well) recently reporting a 340% increase in telehealth interest among physicians since 2015.