- Patients are craving easier and more convenient ways to access healthcare, and would prefer to turn to telehealth instead of a traditional office visit for a number of routine services, says a Harris Poll conducted in conjunction with American Well. Whether it’s a prescription for an antibiotic or a consult for a feverish child in the middle of the night, remote care is gaining traction as 64% of patients now say they are willing to consider a video chat instead of a drive to their primary care provider.
Citing the convenience factor 61% of the time, including shorter waiting times and middle-of-the-night care, patients were largely interested in using telehealth for basic interactions such as obtaining a prescription. Seventy percent of participants would choose telehealth instead of an office visit for receiving medications such as birth control, antibiotics, and allergy medicines. Refilling existing prescriptions online was also a desirable feature, and is an increasingly common feature of patient portals in many practices.
In addition to conducting routine tasks online, patients are starting to recognize that they can, in some cases, avoid the emergency room when their primary care provider is closed. While 44% of patients still think of the ER as their first resort outside of regular business hours, more than one in five respondents would choose a video visit over a drive to the local hospital. Parents with children under the age of 18 are significantly more likely to wish to avoid the emergency department, with 30% preferring a video consult from home instead of bundling up a sick and unhappy youngster for a long wait in triage.
Aside from urgent situations where seeing any physician will do as long as it’s quick, the vast majority of patients want to be able to select their doctor instead of being randomly assigned to a face on the computer screen. Eighty-eight percent of patients overall want to have a choice about who they will be seeing, with that number increasing to 94% for patients over retirement age, just over 40% of whom would like to try a telehealth visit.
Millennials are, of course, the age group most willing to accept the idea of remote care, but they don’t necessarily want to pay too much for the privilege. Sixty-two percent of all patients in the survey think a telehealth visit should cost less than an in-person consult. Only 22% believe the cost should be roughly equal. The average cost of a telehealth visit, which hovers around $50, is significantly less than rushing to urgent care or the emergency room, which may cost up to $750 on average.
Other research agrees that telehealth consults are significantly less expensive to conduct, saving at least half the cost of in-person care for common acute conditions. The Alliance for Connected Care says that remote consults are inexpensive, yet 83% effective in resolving the chief complaint, and can produce an average savings of up to $175 for the healthcare system. When a patient uses telehealth instead of letting his or her symptoms drag on unresolved, it can also produce measurable downstream savings.