This Forbes article from January cites that only 17 percent of the US population has used telehealth. That’s surprisingly low, given that more than half of hospitals in the US offer telehealth services. Furthermore, 77% of patients admit they would prefer a doctor who offers telemedicine.
Finally, almost every state* in the US offers coverage for telemedicine, either through Medicaid or requirements for private insurance providers.
So why has 83 percent of the population not used remote care?
Identifying the disconnect
There are two main reasons for the disconnect:
Lack of awareness.
Patients don’t know that video consultation services may be available under their medical plans and can be paid with pre-tax funds.
Reason for the doctor’s visit.
Depending on what’s bothering them, some people prefer an in-person visit.
However, despite these two hurdles, the future looks bright when it comes to increasing access to care through telemedicine.
It seems that the use of telemedicine will only rise in the coming years. Contributing factors include reduced cost, increased convenience, multiple payment options, and willing patients.
People who have used telehealth find it’s comparably priced to a traditional visit. In emergency cases, it is less expensive than going to an urgent care center.
Reduced wait times are one of the main benefits of telemedicine. However, the appeal doesn’t stop there. For patients who are experiencing symptoms like chills or aches, telemedicine offers quick access to professional care, all without leaving the house.
Likewise, parents who are managing the health of their children 24/7 appreciate the almost immediate care available from their own home.
Multiple payment options.
Beyond insurance and Medicaid, funds from pre-tax benefit accounts can be used to cover telecare visits.
Third party administrators like Benefit Resource often have existing partnerships with remote care services, like Doctor on Demand. Patients can leverage these relationships to realize further convenience and savings.
The most likely users of telehealth are tech-savvy Millennials and Generation Z. As they continue to move up in and enter the workforce, it is likely there will be a steady rise in the use of remote care services.
However, even with these factors contributing to the rise of use, there is still an educational hole to fill.
The next step
To turn the statistics on their head and have 80+ percent of the nation using the convenient and affordable option of telemedicine, strides will need to be made in education.
The burden of education does not fall on one party. From insurance providers to pre-tax administrators to employers, everyone can promote the benefits of telemedicine. The next step is to make sure remote care is given a seat at the table when healthcare options come up.
While trends in healthcare are often met with resistance, the statistics tell a story of people who are willing to embrace this change. It will be interesting to see how telehealth develops in 2019 and beyond.
*except Rhode Island