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Patients Want More Access to Telehealth, mHealth Treatment

Seventy-eight percent of patients want better access to mHealth and telehealth tools, and need their providers and payers to offer the services.

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Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- The pressure is on for providers and health payers to increase access to digital and telehealth tools as patients demand more technology use, says a recent Accenture survey.

In the survey of 1,500 adult respondents, 78 percent said they are interested in utilizing virtual health for all or most of their healthcare encounters, highlighting technology as an important tool to meet patient needs and offer better healthcare access.

“Consumers are clear: In the 21st century, 20th century healthcare is not good enough,” said Frances Dare, managing director of Accenture’s virtual health services. “Technology-enabled services will be equally important as traditional in-person services, allowing the modern patient to choose when and how they receive health and care services.”

Seventy-seven percent of patients said they would use digital health to track health indicators such as blood pressure and glucose levels, while 76 percent would use telehealth to engage in follow-up care and 70 percent would use telehealth to address non-emergency issues such as a sore throat or rash.

Thirty-seven percent of patients said that convenience was a key factor driving them toward virtual healthcare, the most popular motivator amongst the respondents. Thirty-four percent said mHealth was familiar and easy-to-use for them, and the same number said digital health intrigued them.

Despite this interest, only 21 percent of respondents said their providers have offered them access to telehealth and digital health tools, highlighting an opportunity for providers to expand patient care access and meet their patient’s needs.

According to the survey, the onus is on providers and payers to drive more digital health use. Forty-four percent of respondents said they’d use virtual health if encouraged by their clinicians, and 31 percent if encouraged by their payers.

As consumers wield more power about where they access their healthcare, providers may benefit from keeping an eye on patient trends, the survey authors suggested. Additionally, providing patients with an array of options for how they access treatment can boost patient empowerment.

According to Accenture, there is also a financial argument for offering more telehealth and digital health options. Meeting patient wishes can potentially help patient retention. Additionally, offering treatment via telehealth can help cut costs, potentially saving up to $7 billion in primary care provider time annually.

“Given evolving consumer attitudes toward virtual care, making virtual health a priority could be a boon for provider organizations that are resource- and finance-constrained,” Dare said.  “As more and more patients take control of their own healthcare in the age of consumerism, provider organizations must be able to offer meaningful choices for virtual care, in-person care and a combination of both.”

A separate American Well survey recently found that one in five patients are even willing to switch providers in order to access telehealth services.

This is an increase from 2015, when American Well estimated that 17 million patients wanted access to telehealth services. From this most recent survey, the organization estimated that about 50 million patients would make the switch for telehealth access.

The survey of over 4,000 adult patients found that consumers 35-44 years old and consumers with children are demanding access to telehealth services more so than other patients.

Sixty percent of patients managing a chronic illness also want more access to telehealth to communicate with their providers.

According to Mary Modahl, Chief Marketing Officer at American Well, these populations likely want telehealth access to more conveniently interact with their healthcare. And as consumers increasingly demand this access, Modahl suggests providers consider integrating telehealth into their practices.

"Consumers are clearly interested in more convenient access to healthcare – and increasingly, they are even willing to switch providers to get internet video service,” said Modahl in a press release. “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."

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