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Survey: Patients Dubious About Telemedicine

July 14, 2015
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Despite the promising future that telemedicine holds within the U.S. healthcare system, patients remain dubious about this remote option and the quality of diagnosis made during virtual appointments, according to new research from Nashville, Tenn.-based TechnologyAdvice Research.

According to the survey, which included more than 500 U.S. adults over age 18, nearly 65 percent of respondents said they would be somewhat or very unlikely to choose a virtual appointment, while only 35.4 percent stated the opposite. Approximately 75 percent of people reported they either would not trust a diagnosis made via telemedicine, or would trust this method less than an in-doctor visit. Yet, 65 percent said they would be more likely to conduct a virtual appointment if they had previously seen the doctor in-person.

“This is perhaps the largest issue that telemedicine vendors and healthcare providers will need to overcome,” Cameron Graham, managing editor at TechnologyAdvice and the study’s author said in a statement. “If patients don’t trust the diagnoses made during telemedicine calls, they may ignore the advice given, fail to take preventative steps, or seek additional in-person appointments, which defeats the point of telemedicine.”

Telemedicine is a newer technology in the medical industry, with greater lack of familiarity, but data from the study shows that younger patients may be less skeptical. Only about 17 percent of 18-24 year old respondents, and 24 percent of 25-44 year olds, said they wouldn’t trust a virtual diagnosis.

“This suggests much of the hesitation about telemedicine may stem from patient fears over lack of physician choice, or lack of familiarity with the doctor they see,” said Graham. “This can likely be eased through a combination of education materials, and clear explanations about how much physician choice is offered.”

To increase acceptance of telemedicine and use of such services, healthcare providers and vendors need to focus on effectively explaining the advantages of these platforms, according to the survey’s researchers. A combined 70 percent of respondents reported at least one of the following factors would make them more likely to use a virtual appointment: more convenient scheduling options, lower cost, less time spent in the waiting room, and ability to conduct virtual appointments at home.

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