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Demand for Virtual Health is High, but Do Providers Deliver?

Healthcare consumers want to use virtual health capabilities, but only a fraction of patients actually have access to telehealth and remote care.

Healthcare consumers have a high demand for telehealth

Source: Thinkstock

- Despite strong consumer demand for virtual health services, only one in five patients participating in a new Accenture survey have been able to access remote care tools.  Virtual health tools provide greater convenience for patients and help with chronic disease management, and are an attractive supplement to in-person care.  

“Consumers are clear: In the 21st century, 20th century healthcare is not good enough,” said Frances Dare, managing director of Accenture’s virtual health services. “Technology-enabled services will be equally important as traditional in-person services, allowing the modern patient to choose when and how they receive health and care services.”

Thirty-four percent of patients cited the convenience factor of telehealth, while the same number said they were simply curious to try it.

Seventy-seven percent of respondents said they wanted use virtual services to track their blood pressure, their pulse, and their blood glucose levels, while 76 percent reported they wanted to use virtual tools to attend follow-up appointments about these health indicators.

Seventy percent of respondents also said they want to use remote care services for non-urgent health examinations for conditions such as a rash or sore throat.

Consumers reported that they would be more likely to use virtual services if encouraged by a physician (44 percent) or a healthcare payer (31 percent), and more than three quarters indicated they would be interested in using virtual health tools some or most of the time.

“Given evolving consumer attitudes toward virtual care, making virtual health a priority could be a boon for provider organizations that are resource- and finance-constrained,” Dare said.  “As more and more patients take control of their own healthcare in the age of consumerism, provider organizations must be able to offer meaningful choices for virtual care, in-person care and a combination of both.”

Providers may start to see their patients move to organizations that offer more digital health options if they fail to keep pace with demand. A recent survey from American Well found that 20 percent of all consumers would be willing to switch clinicians if a different provider offered telehealth services, indicating a near immediate need for healthcare organizations to adopt virtual delivery tools.

Telehealth and other mHealth options could also save money for payers.  Research from the Journal of Aging and Health found that Humana could cut more than $3 billion in Medicare expenditures over 10 years through the use of a digital health platform.

Given the changing consumer and healthcare landscape, more payers and providers will experience these high consumer demands for virtual care tools and will have to meet this demand with adequate services.

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