Despite the hype around telemedicine, new research shows a relatively small percentage of consumers are making use of the technology.
The finding comes from a report sponsored by Avizia, a telehealth provider based in Reston, Virginia.
It includes information from two separate surveys, both of which were conducted in March. One has responses from consumers, while the other takes the pulse of healthcare professionals. Modern Healthcare commissioned Signet Research to conduct both assessments.
The consumer survey contains responses from 403 individuals 18 or older living in the United States. The other survey was sent to healthcare professionals who subscribe to Modern Healthcare. The report includes information from 444 of those subscribers whose organizations currently use telehealth.
At the time of the survey, the vast majority of consumers — 82 percent — indicated they do not use telehealth. Only 18 percent said they use the technology.
The hesitance to utilize telemedicine stems from a variety of reasons.
One is a lack of knowledge about insurance. Two-thirds of the patient respondents said they don’t know if telemedicine is covered by their insurance. And only one in every five indicated they can say for certain that their insurance covers telehealth.
“This points to a significant patient disconnect that either insurers or providers — possibly both — need to ponder,” the report notes. “Providers that are keen to raise patient awareness and increase participation in telehealth may wish to consider some sort of joint patient education outreach with their leading managed care partners.”
For other patients, it’s an issue of feeling at ease. Forty-six percent of consumers said they would find a video less comfortable than an in-person visit with their physician. Thirty-five percent thought they would be just as comfortable with a video, and only 18 percent said a video visit would be more comfortable for them.
On the flip side, consumers who do use telehealth also cited multiple reasons for doing so.
Fifty-nine percent like the time savings and convenience associated with it, and 55 percent appreciate the faster service and shorter wait times. Others said they like how telemedicine offers better access to specialists.
The survey of healthcare professionals also did a bit of digging into the question of telehealth adoption.
The most common reason for considering telemedicine was the fact that it can expand access to patients, with 70 percent of respondents giving this answer. Fifty-five percent like the technology’s ability to improve outcomes, and 44 percent cited how it can reduce costs. Only 36 percent of healthcare professionals said they were interested in telemedicine due to consumer demand.