Fitting in a doctor’s appointment during the week is no easy feat. By 2016, I thought I would have adapted to virtual consults – but so far that’s not the case. While technology continues to transform healthcare, whether it be fitness trackers or online communities, the majority of patients still prefer to discuss their personal health face-to-face.
According to Fierce Healthcare, 62 percent of people rely on their doctor for information. However, online patient portals are growing in popularity, with 21 percent of patients using this technology to communicate with their physician. Data like this makes you wonder…
Where are we at with telemedicine?
It is projected that there will be 1.2 million virtual doctor visits in the U.S. this year. With more than 300 million people in the U.S., you might expect that number to be higher. However, according to the American Telemedicine Association, more than 15 million Americans received some kind of medical care remotely last year, and those numbers are expected to grow by 30 percent this year.
It was also reported that 72 percent of hospitals and 52 percent of physician groups currently offer telemedicine programs. Yet, nearly 40 percent of tech-savvy consumers hadn’t even heard of telemedicine, and of those who haven’t used it, 42 percent said they preferred in-person doctor visits.
Can we really replace in-person doctor’s visits?
For non-emergency issues, like colds and the flu, it’s definitely a possibility. According to the American Telemedicine Association, more than 60 percent of consumers are open to using virtual healthcare services, with convenience ranked as the top benefit. Not to mention that virtual visits are cheaper than a trip to the doctor’s office. And with high deductible health plans continuing to become more prevalent, it’s likely we will begin to see more patients opt for the cheaper, virtual doctor visit.
It’s all about communication
As communicators, we know the importance of communication – and now patients are recognizing that as well. Patients have voiced that communication is the most important factor when choosing a provider, and now patients are choosing their providers based on how well they use technology to communicate with them and manage their health.
In order to influence more patients to adopt virtual healthcare services, providers need to ensure that communication lines are open and concerns are addressed. According to the American Telemedicine Association, the top concerns for patients include insurance coverage, data security and the loss of personal relationships.
For telemedicine to be successful, providers must implement a communications strategy that enables patients to understand the benefits of telemedicine, how to use it and address concerns. Making this information available through multiple channels, whether it’s an online portal, app or social media, will help patients better understand how to use virtual healthcare services and why they should be using them.
What has your experience been with virtual healthcare services? If you haven’t experienced virtual healthcare services yet, what is keeping you from trying it? Share with us in the comments below.