Up to 77 percent of consumers would consider seeing a provider virtually—and 19 percent already have, according to a Virtual Visits Consumer Choice Survey from the Washington, D.C.-based The Advisory Board Company.
The results suggest that the health care industry has largely underestimated and, to date, failed to meet consumer interest in virtual care.
“Across industries, consumers have become accustomed to using virtual technology for both real-time and asynchronous interactions. Health care providers can no longer wait to catch up," Tom Cassels, national strategy partner at Advisory Board, said in a statement. "Providers have designed care access around their own convenience and will increasingly find patients willing to pay for their own convenience and alternatives to driving to physician offices for medical expertise."
Virtual access to care provides well-documented benefits, such as improved access to providers, greater efficiency and flexibility, and comparable care outcomes. But when Advisory Board conducted hundreds of interviews with health care leaders, researchers discovered a common barrier to growing a mature program—physician resistance.
“Many physicians perceive their patients as only being interested in having an in-person relationship with their doctor, especially when it comes to specialty services. The survey results indicate otherwise,” the Advisory Board states.
In particular, the most popular types of virtual visits tested in Advisory Board’s survey interested more than 70 percent of respondents, including prescription question or refill, pre-surgery and select post-operation appointments, receiving ongoing results from an oncologist, and ongoing care for chronic condition management. Select pregnancy checkups, weight loss or smoking cessation coaching, dermatology consults, and psychologist consults also ranked among top offerings.
Overall, the majority of the nearly 5,000 survey respondents reported that they would be willing to consider a virtual visit in each of the 21 primary and specialty care scenarios tested.
Advisory Board's survey also found consumer concerns with virtual visits. Notably, care quality was the top concern with a virtual visit (identified by 21 percent of survey respondents), followed by the provider not being able to diagnose or treat them virtually (19 percent), meaning they would have to go to the physical clinic anyway. Only 9 percent of respondents said they had no concerns about virtual visits. The Advisory Board notes that, moving forward, health care providers will need to respond to consumers' top concerns in order to actually convert interested prospects into virtual patients.
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