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Just 6 Percent of Upstate New Yorkers Use Telemedicine, Survey Finds

March 7, 2017
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Just 6 percent of adults from upstate New York reported that they have used telemedicine, according to a recent survey commissioned by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. However, those who have used it said they would be likely to use it again.

The online survey administered by the polling firm One Research contacted 2,000 upstate New York adults, a representative sample of the region's U.S. Census Bureau demographics. The survey revealed that 40 percent of the sample population said they are aware of telemedicine but have never used it, while 54 percent said they aren’t even aware of it.

Meanwhile, 80 percent of those who have used telemedicine rated their experience as "very good" or "excellent.” About one-quarter of survey respondents indicated that they plan to use telemedicine in the future, while an equal number said they did not plan to use it. About half of the respondents were undecided.

Respondents who reported that they had either used or were familiar with telemedicine were asked their first and second choice for having any future minor medical condition needs addressed. An in-person visit with their doctor ranked highest, followed by a telemedicine visit with their doctor. Use of an urgent care center, and a telemedicine visit with a provider other than their own doctor ranked third and fourth. Going to a hospital emergency room ranked last as a preference for treating minor conditions.

"That initial ranking was gratifying as a finding to us," said Martin Lustick, M.D., senior vice president and corporate medical officer for Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, "because our repeated promotions around a telemedicine option have been very clear. Ideal medical care is when a patient can see his or her doctor. We've said the second best choice, if available, is a telemedicine visit with their physician. A new option we've been suggesting is to consider a telemedicine visit with another provider for treatment of minor conditions. With time, we expect that will gain in popularity over going to an urgent care center."

Other highlights from the survey include:

  • Approximately one-third of upstate New York respondents who are between the ages of 18 and 44 plans to use telemedicine. Interest in using telemedicine declines with age.
  • Preference for in-person interaction is the main reason why respondents don't use telemedicine (50 percent), while the doctor not offering telemedicine (26 percent) and the health plan not offering it (24 percent) were also listed as reasons.
  • People who use telemedicine are significantly more likely to report using it again.
  • On weekdays, telemedicine is mostly used during daytime hours, however weekend use is typically at night (between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.).

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