Far from a tipping point: only 18 percent of consumers using telemedicine. An expectation gap? (US)

When will we get there? And what needs to happen? Telemedicine provider Avizia surveyed both consumers and healthcare professionals earlier this year, and the results are not encouraging. For the huge investments made by telemedicine and telehealth companies, along with providers and payers, the key finding here is that only 18 percent of the 403 consumers surveyed in March had even used telehealth.

Of that 18 percent (N=72), it’s been a positive experience:

  • On a 1 to 10 scale, with 10 signifying a “great experience,” 62 percent of consumers who used telehealth ranked their experience a 10, 9, or 8.
  • Consumers who used telehealth appreciated time savings and convenience (59 percent), faster service and shorter wait times to see the doctor (55 percent), and cost savings due to less travel (43 percent)

Modern Healthcare also sponsored the outreach to healthcare professionals who are subscribers, locating 444 respondents whose organizations currently use telehealth or telemedicine.

  • They are most interested in telehealth’s ability to expand access or reach to patients (72 percent). Barriers are reimbursement (41 percent), program cost (40 percent), and clinician resistance (22 percent)
  • Their #1 use cases are for stroke and neurology (72 percent), followed by behavioral health (41 percent) and intensive care (20 percent).

What’s unsaid in this write-up? Consumers and clinicians clearly have differing expectations on how they want to use telemedicine. Consumers are largely using it as an alternative to an in-person visit for less serious medical needs. Clinicians use it for very serious situations–stroke, neurology, mental illness, ICU. Perhaps this is why the takeup of telehealth among consumers is low.

Mike Baird, CEO of Avizia, is quoted in the release as saying “Health systems are investing in telehealth, even as uptick is slow among consumers, because they understand the potential of the technology to impact patient care in a profound way.” But as a Grizzled Pioneer in this field said to this Editor in confidence, how many of these companies have the revenues and patient investors to enable them to stay alive till they get to the Promised Land–and how far is it? Closing the Telehealth Gap (white paper requires free registration and download)Becker’s Hospital Review

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  1. Digital transformation happens slower than expected, then far faster than anyone imagined. As compared to last year, the number of Americans who are aware of telemedicine and have used it has increased dramatically. It may not yet be “top of mind” for the great majority of Americans, but the numbers in this article suggest the hockey-stick of rapid growth leading to the tipping point is happening. Your article points out it may not be happening as fast as industry participants now believe. See my article on this transformation, your Weekend Big Read: will telemedicine do to retail healthcare what Amazon did to retail?

  2. Donna Cusano

    Bruce, I do get that there are two telemedicine/telehealth ‘tracks’, one is a less acute/short term one, and the other is clinical. The survey inadvertently uncovered the disparity in views, and this may be a factor holding back greater implementation. Telemedicine companies have to concentrate on one segment or the other, especially the smaller players.

    Here is another thought. We had a reply tweet from a doctor claiming that he received only one to two consults a month maximum. They are private pay at the usual rate, about $50. This doesn’t cover his or her hosting fees! Certainly part of any marketing with physicians is a marketing service component to reach their patients.