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ATA Survey: Parents Like Telehealth for Primary Care Needs

A survey by Nemours Children's Health released at the American Telemedicine Association's Telehealth 2.0 conference finds that parents like telehealth for primary care visits, but not for chronic care management.

Source: ThinkStock

- Parents surveyed by a national pediatric health network say they know about telemedicine and are willing to use it to address primary care issues, but they’re hesitant to use it to manage chronic conditions.

That divide separates two of the larger markets for telemedicine – virtual visits for primary care and remote monitoring for chronic care – and points to a challenges faced by healthcare providers as they look to establish sustainable telemedicine platforms. In short, telehealth is gaining widespread support among consumers for one-off episodic visits, but it has yet to be embraced for long-term care coordination.

Released as the American Telemedicine Association’s Health 2.0 conference and exhibition got underway this weekend in Orlando, the Nemours Children’s Health System survey finds that only 15 percent of parents have actually used a digital health platform, but 64 percent are interested in using it for their children. Almost three-quarters of them, in fact, rate the virtual visit as superior to an in-person visit.

While still low, the number of parents using telemedicine or telehealth has more than doubled since Nemours conducted its last study in 2014, while awareness has jumped 88 percent in those three years.

“As parents look to raise children with accessible and evidence-based health care, telemedicine can be a convenient and high-quality option for busy families,” Gina Altieri, CPA, Nemours’ senior vice president and chief of strategy Integration, said in a press release. “Even though use of telemedicine is climbing slowly, our findings show that we are on the cusp of a breakthrough in adoption as families are becoming more interested and accepting of receiving care virtually.”

And it dovetails with a similar survey conducted last November by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia, which found that more than 80 percent of mother surveyed want to learn more about telemedicine to help deal with non-emergency medical issues with their children.

“Research shows that busy working moms can find it challenging to see a doctor when they need to address a non-emergency health issue” Debbie Diamond, a spokesperson for BCBSGa, said in a press release accompanying that survey. “We understand the importance about how mobile technology is evolving and providing moms with new tools that help manage, track and access health information. Now, more than ever, women need access to information and technology that enables them to focus on health and wellness for themselves and their families.”

The Nemours study highlights the advantages of a telehealth platform for the busy family, struggling to find the time for doctor’s visits and the estimated 30 hours of well-child visits undertaken during the first five years of a child’s life. Some 41 percent of parents surveyed said they’d use telehealth for well-child visits, while the numbers were higher for common ailments that might warrant a trip to the doctor’s office and time out of work or school – 48 percent for rashes, 51 percent for pink-eye and 58 percent for cold and flu symptoms.

Other survey results highlighted by Nemours:

  • Fathers were more likely to have already used telemedicine services for themselves or their children (33.9 percent), compared to mothers (21.7 percent);
  • Of those who have already used virtual care, 80.7 percent cited convenience as the primary benefit to choosing online over an in-person visit, while slightly more than half see the platform as better for more immediate care and for seeking an after-hours medical opinion;
  • Among those who were very comfortable with trying new remote sensing devices, such as those attached to a smartphone for sending vitals or other clinical measures to a doctor (48 percent), 29 percent of them already had had an online doctor visit for their child. This suggests a pattern of “early adopters” for new technologies in pursuing children’s healthcare.

But while parents see the telehealth platform as good for short-term fixes, they aren’t sold on telemedicine for long-term care coordination.

According to the survey, 53 percent of parents said they would never consider using telemedicine as a care platform for a child with diabetes, 43 percent aren’t receptive to using telehealth to treat asthma, and 36 percent said they can’t see using digital health to treat ADHD.

Those statistics suggest that parents are comfortable with using telehealth as a quick fix, but they aren’t convinced that the technology will support continued care management, which is more complex and costly. 

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