Thursday, June 22, 2017

Survey finds relatively few patients have used tele-health, which offers opportunities to rural areas

Most Americans are willing to consider using remote access telecommunications for medical appointments, but only a fraction have actually utilized "tele-health" services, according to a recent survey.

"The Advisory Board Co.'s Virtual Visits Consumer Choice Survey reported more than three-quarters of nearly 5,000 respondents would see a doctor virtually, while less than 20 percent already have used tele-health solutions," Alex Kacik writes for Modern Healthcare.

Researchers found that the health-care industry is not meeting consumer interest in virtual care, which can make medical appointments easier and more accessible for rural Americans who live far from their providers, particularly medical-specialty practitioners.

"Many providers are investing in a big way in tele-health, which was valued as a $18.2 billion global market in 2016 and is estimated to reach $38 billion by 2022, according to a Zion Market Research study. Patients can download apps that will immediately connect them with a physician and have a prescription routed to the pharmacy in minutes, which can be ideal for minor issues such as rashes or colds and chronic matters that require frequent checkups. Virtual direct-to-consumer health-care delivery has been touted as a means to increase access, improve outcomes and lower costs, which satisfies value-based payment reforms. Yet, whether there are actual cost savings has been debated. While tele-health is cheaper than traditional doctor or hospital visits, more people may seek care because it is easier to use, driving up health-care costs, according to a recent study from the RAND Corp. Integrating these tools can also be costly," Kacik explains.

Nearly 20 percent of people in the poll said they were worried that the health-care provider would not be able to diagnose or treat them virtually and that they would have to go to a clinic anyway. Nearly 40 percent of parents surveyed said they had used virtual checkups for their children, Kacik writes. Nearly all of the patients who said they had used tele-health were younger than 50, while privately insured, higher-income patients were far more likely to use virtual visits than Medicaid or Medicare patients in lower-income brackets.

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