PatientEngagementHIT

Patient Care Access News

Retail Clinic, Telehealth Visits Increase by 10% Since 2013

With retail clinics and telehealth on the rise, patients are finding new ways to receive care, keeping them engaged in their own health.

By Sara Heath

- Retail clinics and telehealth might be the new path toward patient engagement and patient satisfaction, a recent Oliver Wyman survey reveals.

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The survey, which questioned a total of 2,000 patients, found that alternative care methods, like retail health clinics and telehealth, are on the rise due to patients’ satisfaction with them.

Retail health clinic use has risen from 15 percent in 2013 to 26 percent in 2015, and use of telehealth visits has risen from 35 to 45 percent.

Patients report preferring these difference care locations, as well, with most saying they’re either equal to or better than their traditional doctor’s office or emergency room visits. In total, 78 percent of survey respondents said urgent care clinics are equal to or better than traditional care sites, and 79 percent of respondents said the same of retail clinics.

In an industry that is continuously looking for new ways to deliver care to hard-to-reach patient populations and to improve patient engagement levels, these results are promising.

Telehealth and retail clinics have a lot of potential to achieve both of those goals by offering care options for patients at their convenience. Between convenient locations, flexible scheduling, and typically lower costs, new healthcare sites do a lot to boost patient engagement.

“Providing care in more convenient settings (like the local drug store or a person’s own living room) can drive consumer engagement, and that can lead to higher satisfaction and – most importantly – better health,” the researchers said. “Right care in the right place at the right time is a compelling value proposition, and one that has the potential to disrupt the entire marketplace – if designed and executed correctly.”

That doesn’t mean that alternative care sites, or the “new front door” to healthcare as the researchers call them, can or should replace traditional care settings. Instead, they should be used to create more options and more opportunities for patients to seek different kinds of care that enhance their overall wellness.

“The ‘new front door’ is not about replicating today’s healthcare system in a more convenient setting. Instead, the new front door is about bolstering today’s healthcare system with a variety of consumer-friendly access points,” the researchers explained.

Despite reported patient satisfaction and the growth in alternative care site use, there are limits to when patients will use them.

Several respondents said that their use of telehealth and retail clinics is tied to financial factors. A total of 42 percent of patients will only use retail clinics if their health plans covered some or all of the costs. Another 21 percent said they would use them as long as they could afford them, and 8 percent said only if they were free or nearly free.

Another significant portion of respondents tied their use of retail clinics to the quality of care they believed they would receive, with 32 percent saying they’d only use one if it were affiliated with a local healthcare provider or their own doctor, and 12 percent saying only for minor health needs and no medical needs.

Despite this, the overall increase in the number of alternative care site users shows that the healthcare industry is on its way toward a new strategy toward patient engagement, which ideally will increase patient satisfaction and the overall quality of care.

“Despite these reservations and preferences, there is a marked shift in consumers’ willingness to use alternative sites. Consequently, we expect their use of alternative sites is going to continue to grow,” the research team concluded. “These findings indicate consumers are ready for the new front door.”