Pandemic Telehealth Experiences Differ for Patients and Providers
by John Thomas, Managing Director of Burke Healthcare; Gabriela Pashturro, Sr. Vice President, Burke; and Catherine Salzman, Director of Social Insights & Analytics at Seed Strategy
Over the past year, many of life’s tasks have moved online. From work, to school, to shopping, people have turned to virtual options to keep life moving while also staying safe. Across industries, companies have leveraged virtual options to maintain business – and the healthcare industry is no exception.
Telehealth visits are not a new innovation, but with the significant increase in usage this year – driven by the pandemic – one may think it could be a new innovation. With this surge of new users, we sought to better understand both patient and provider experiences with telehealth. We conducted an online survey of telehealth users – 431 patients and 228 providers – to better understand the experiences and behaviors associated with telehealth visits during the pandemic. Here are our findings:
(NOTE: In order to participate in the study, patients and providers had to utilize telehealth for at least one visit during the pandemic.)
UTILIZATION MUST BE MODELED CLOSELY: Telehealth was primed to support both patients and providers during COVID-19, and created an influx of new consumers and providers utilizing this approach, but where will it land post-pandemic? While these next chapters have yet to be written, we can be sure subsequent reimbursement decisions will surely drive future utilization.
PROVIDERS ARE CLEARLY LESS SATISFIED WITH TELEHEALTH THAN CONSUMERS: For those tasked with managing components of telehealth for providers in organizations, focus on making technology an enabler, instead of a distraction. Here, one size does not fit all, and determining quickly which niches of patients are best suited for telehealth will help ease some of the challenges, as will providing providers with multiple telehealth models for various visit types.
FOCUS ON THE BENEFITS OF PRIVACY AND SAFETY:Interestingly, patients and providers did not rate privacy and safety of their data being compromised as a significant concern when utilizing telehealth. However, given the general focus on consumer data privacy across industries, it is lack of a concern here that could be a true advantage – if managed properly. Privacy and safety are clearly seen as major advantages of telehealth visits, which can allow companies to further position telehealth utilization as part of the new normal.
PREPARE TO ADDRESS POTENTIAL SWITCHING BEHAVIORS:While the numbers of individuals who would switch doctors or health plans to keep telehealth visits as a future option is currently low (11%), once this option is unavailable, opinions may change. Consumers may be more inclined to seek out a new provider and/or plan to have continued access to the benefit of telehealth.
BEHAVIORAL HEALTH IS ONE AREA PRIMED FOR TELEHEALTH GROWTH:With nearly 71% of behavioral health providers believing that telehealth visits address patient concerns as well, or even better, than in-person visits, there clearly is an opportunity for growth.
THE FUTURE OF TELEHEALTH
While both patients and providers have embraced virtual services during the pandemic, early results indicate that patients appreciate this healthcare option more than those providing the care. This research helps uncover where the disconnects lie and sets the stage for improvements to help close the experience gap between patients and providers.
While many were forced to try telehealth during the pandemic, most patients and providers will continue to opt for this choice post-pandemic. However, not all telehealth visits are created equal. As patients and providers begin to weigh their options, our research indicates that visits requiring a physical exam or diagnostics will remain largely in-person. Also, those who have had trouble with the technological aspects of telehealth – this includes both patients and providers – will likely revert to in-person visits. However, when efficiency is key, or for those more comfortable sharing sensitive information from the comfort of their home, telehealth may open the door for people to have more regular touchpoints with providers.
Finally, telehealth is allowing providers to meet with a greater number of patients and grow their practices without exhausting resources. While they may express a greater amount of frustration, the benefit to the bottom line will help keep telehealth an attractive option for providers moving forward.
To view the full article published in Quirk’s magazine, click here.
Johnleads a team of dedicated Healthcare researchers and consultants with expertise across key industry verticals from Healthcare to CPG to Financial Services and more. John’s passion is to see the success of those around him and help them meet their highest potential.
Gabriela has partnered with Burke clients, end-to-end for more than 20 years. Her natural drive and passion for insights maximizes her clients’ ability to improve and grow their business.
A seasoned data journalist with over 10 years of experience across strategic, media and research disciplines, Catherineleverages her stellar perspective to illuminate vibrant stories that compel action and inspire clarity.