Americans’ Perceptions of Telehealth in the Era of COVID-19
Telehealth has quickly become an important tool in caring for your patients while keeping yourself and your staff safe as the COVID-19 pandemic quickly evolves. The Centers of Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has loosened the regulations for telemedicine in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Telehealth services may now be delivered to Medicare beneficiaries by phone as long as video capability is available. Sykes conducted a survey of 2,000 adults across the U.S. to understand how Americans perceive telehealth today in the era of COVID-19 — and how this pandemic impacts how Americans will approach telemedicine in the future.
- 73% said they would consider using a telehealth service to be screened for COVID-19.
- More than one in ten respondents said they’ve already used a telehealth service for something related to COVID-19.
- 60% said the COVID-19 pandemic has increased their willingness to try telehealth.
Telehealth in the Era of COVID-19
Seventy-three percent of U.S. Americans said they would consider using a telehealth service for COVID-19 screening, according to a new survey by Sykes. Conducted between March 19-20, 2020 via Pollfish, a third-party consumer-focused survey platform, Sykes surveyed 2,000 adults across the U.S. to better understand how Americans perceive telehealth today in the new era of COVID-19 — and how this pandemic impacts how Americans will approach telemedicine in the future.
Key findings of the report include:
Insurance Coverage for Telehealth
The majority of those surveyed indicated they were aware that their health insurance plan covered telehealth services, a vital contributor to many people’s willingness to utilize any specific health service. In contrast, nearly 35 percent of respondents were unsure whether telehealth is covered by their health insurance provider, and less than 10 percent saying that their insurance did not offer coverage.
Perception of Telehealth
62 percent of those who have never had a telehealth appointment also said they do not know anyone who has had one.
While the majority of respondents note they are aware of telehealth, far fewer have actually tried a telehealth visit – only about 19 percent. Of that group, fully one-quarter fell within the 25-34 age group.
An overwhelming amount of those who have tried telehealth services stated they were satisfied enough with the experience that they either already have or will consider scheduling another one in the future. Nearly two-thirds of those who have already had a telehealth appointment have had more than one.
8 percent of all respondents like the idea of being able to get a potential diagnosis without being around others who are sick in a waiting room.
The convenience of a telehealth visit is similarly attractive to those surveyed; 36 percent prefer the potential of keeping an appointment without having to commute to a clinic or physician’s office. An additional 12 percent find the ability to schedule same-day care appealing
COVID-19 Driving Telehealth Adoption
If there is an outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic as it relates to telehealth, it may be that it will encourage more people to consider using it. Nearly 60 percent of respondents indicated that COVID19 has made them more likely to consider using a telehealth service in the future.
Almost 25 percent of respondents had not linked COVID-19 to their opinion of using telehealth, However, those numbers will surely change as the health system in the United States continues to utilize all means necessary to care for the health of people in ways that prevent further spread of the disease.
Barriers to Telehealth Adoption
Skepticism around the quality of care and aspects of the patient-physician relationship were key motivators for those who would not consider a future telehealth visit. Over 40 percent of respondents were concerned about the ability to get proper treatment or diagnosis in a virtual setting. One person commented: “My only concern would be the simple touch and feel aspect. If needed, the doctor obviously cannot [touch and feel] via the internet.” Other respondents expressed that they feel telehealth is only good for minor issues and illnesses.
36 percent of respondents prefer a face-to-face engagement with their caregiver, one saying: “If I’m sick I want to see my doctor and get lab work to confirm my diagnosis…”
Another 23 percent (a majority in the 18-24 age group) are uncomfortable speaking with who would likely be a new and unfamiliar practitioner.
Telehealth Adoption Barriers for Americans 55+
Respondents in the 55+ age group were less likely to have used telehealth or expressed concerns about its effectiveness. Some expressed concern that telehealth would only be effective for minor illnesses and diagnoses. Given that the most frequent cases for telehealth to this point have been for stroke and behavioral assessment and their respective diagnosis, these comments would indicate that the understanding of how telehealth service works is still limited.
Accuracy and quality of care were virtually equal responses when queried about concerns surrounding telehealth services. Respondents in the 55+ age group, as well as those from the Midwest, most frequently responded: “I’m not convinced a telehealth diagnosis can ever be truly accurate.”
While older Americans’ usage of technology continues to increase, some suggest that confidence levels by seniors in the usage of laptops, smartphones or wearable devices could be contributing to lack of use.