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Patients Are Demanding Telehealth from Primary Care Providers

Patients Are Demanding Telehealth from Primary Care ProvidersIf you have been on the fence about whether to add telemedicine to your primary care practice, here’s a new survey that might push you off it. According to new data by American Well, one in five consumers would be willing to switch providers if another practice offered telemedicine.

“Consumers are clearly interested in more convenient access to healthcare – and increasingly, they are even willing to switch providers to get internet video service. Not only that, but consumers are willing to try telehealth for many needs – from chronic conditions to post-discharge follow-up,” said Mary Modahl, Chief Marketing Officer, American Well. “Health systems and provider groups must take note; if you haven’t already, 2017 is the year to put a secure telehealth platform in place.”

These surveys were conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of American Well from August 19-23, 2016 among 2,100 adults ages 18 and older and September 28-30, 2016 among 2,007 adults ages 18 and older.

What’s driving the demand? American Well found several factors that increased the likelihood that a respondent would demand telemedicine.

Parents of Children Under Age 18

One of the groups who placed the highest value on telehealth are the parents of children under the age of 18. This is not surprising giving the demands on the time of parents, especially those who work full-time. It can be a daunting challenge to schedule a well-child exam or have a suspicious mole examined when you are trying to get everyone to work, school, and baseball practice on time. For those that don’t have a co-parent or easy access to child care, a trip to the doctor can mean bringing small children along, a proposition that does not improve the encounter for anyone. Parents also appreciate that their children can be seen without missing valuable class time and like the idea that telehealth reduces the risk of exposure to illness for themselves and their children.

People with Chronic Conditions

Fully 60 percent of consumers who are willing to have an online telehealth visit would see a doctor online for help managing a chronic condition. In addition, 67 percent of adults ages 45-64 who are willing to have an online telehealth visit would see a doctor online for help managing a chronic condition. In the US, the number of people with chronic conditions is on the rise. According to the National Health Council, they affect approximately 133 million Americans, representing more than 40% of the total population of this country. The number is projected to grow to an estimated 157 million, with 81 million having multiple conditions.

Telehealth is ideal for the management of chronic conditions like Type-2 diabetes, congestive heart failure, depression, and IBD.  Although patients with these types of conditions will likely need some in-person visits, video visits are perfect for medication management, reviewing laboratory results, and post-hospitalization follow up. They help ease the burden on patients and make it easier for them to be proactive in managing their own health.

People Caring for an Ill or Elderly Relative

The rise in chronic conditions is not the only thing that is putting a strain on today’s consumers. There are now more Americans age 65 and older than at any other time in U.S. history. According to a new Census Bureau report, there were 40.3 million people age 65 and older on April 1, 2010, up 5.3 percent from 35 million in 2000. The burden of caring for many of these patients falls on family members and friends, many of whom are caught in the “squeeze” of caring for older loved ones and children at the same time.

It is no wonder that 79 percent of consumers currently caring for an ill or aging relative say a multi-way video telehealth service would be helpful.  Telemedicine eliminates transportation issues, safety risks such as falls, and missed work time for the caregiver. It also makes it easier for caregivers to maintain their own health by seeing their providers when needed without having to make other care arrangements.

Technology is a bit like a bell that you can’t un-ring. Once consumers get an idea of how it can benefit them, see others use it successfully, and realize that it is affordable, they will insist on its availability and walk away from providers that don’t offer it. Building a primary care practice without the majority of parents, 35-44-year-olds, people with chronic illnesses, and those caring for ill or aging loved ones doesn’t seem like a proposition likely to succeed.

Fortunately, adding telehealth to your practice is not difficult, it is cost effective and even beneficial to the work-life balance of providers.