By Matthew Zajechowski, content strategist, Digital Third Coast.
The use of Telehealth services has seen remarkable growth during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent research found that 67% of Americans have used telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is up from 46% prior to COVID-19. One might wonder if this growth is temporary or poised for more long-term growth post-pandemic.
To learn more about the growing trend of telehealth use, my agency worked with a data management firm to survey the American public about their experiences using telehealth during COVID-19 and whether or not they plan to continue to use these virtual medical services in the future.
Telehealth and Covid-19
One immediate observation that we learned as a result of this analysis is that 71% of Americans are currently fearful to visit their doctor’s office due to COVID-19. Because of these fears, many people have shifted towards using telehealth services during the pandemic. While 63% of respondents were originally apprehensive about their first telehealth visit, 72% reported enjoying their first telehealth experience.
What patients like most about telehealth
Why do patients prefer seeing a doctor virtually as opposed to in-person? Convivence safety and flexibility with appointments were the top responses. Many patients are shifting to telehealth as a means to avoid potential virus exposure.
Shorter wait-times are also driving people to telehealth appointments during the COVID-19 pandemic. Patients reported spending less time both between scheduling the appointment and the visit as well as time spent waiting in a virtual waiting room to be seen.
Access to care is another positive trend from increased telehealth use during COVID-19. Eighty percent (80%) of surveyed respondents believe telehealth has improved their ability to receive access to care during the pandemic. Seventy percent (70%) feel that telehealth provides adequate care and 65% believe telehealth provides accurate diagnosis to symptoms.
Telehealth visits also have the potential to replace some medical visits depending on the severity of the ailment. Sixty-six percent of our surveyed respondents feel telehealth will ultimately end up replacing in-person doctor visits that don’t require hands-on exams; 69% said they are less likely to use an ER or urgent care for non-life-threatening visits in the future if telehealth becomes more available.
What patients dislike about telehealth
While patients view telehealth as a largely positive service, one-third of respondents said they experienced delays due to technical difficulties and a similar percentage reported having to miss or reschedule an appointment due to technical difficulties.
Privacy was another concern with 43% of respondents reporting concerns with their privacy and security while using telehealth services; 55% said they would still prefer an in-person visit with their doctor as opposed to a virtual appointment.
How patients are using telehealth
Primary care visits were by and large the most common reason that people are using telehealth services during COVID-19, followed by cardiologists, neurologist, oncologists.
Mental health visits have also seen a 42% increase during COVID-19 with 70% of respondents reporting that they are more willing to speak with a mental health professional if they could do so virtually.
Telehealth post COVID-19
So, what does telehealth look like post COVID-19? Will patients abandon this technology and shift back towards in-person appointments or will they continue to rely on telehealth technology because of the convivence and safety it provides?
6 in 10 Americans surveyed reported that they would continue to use telehealth medical services post COVID-19. Those that said they were apprehensive about using telehealth more in the future wanted increased security, more affordable and accessible options and easier to understand technology.
The Covid-19 pandemic has provided a unique opportunity for more people to experience telehealth services while being able to provide valuable feedback for medical providers on their likes and dislikes with the technology. Time will tell if telehealth will be embraced by the masses, however the COVID-19 pandemic should give provides a blueprint for how to use this technology more effectively in the future.
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