- Although 66% of consumers reported they're willing to try telehealth, only 8% have actually done it, according to a new survey from telehealth vendor American Well.
- And, of the people interested in virtual care, 17% weren't sure if their insurance covers it, according to the survey of more than 2,000 adults.
- Additionally, two-thirds of Americans are using personal health monitoring devices and one-half have health apps, the survey found.
Although people report varying levels of satisfaction with vendors and their products, telehealth adoption is increasing in popularity as patients and providers become more comfortable with the service. Payers and providers are offering mobile health apps to try and capitalize on the trend as the site of care moves increasingly toward the community and home.
Millennials are more likely than older Americans to use virtual care services. Almost three-fourths of the generation reports willingness to use the tech, especially for behavioral health management, American Well found. Mobile apps in particular have cropped up to meet this need, including popular virtual therapy startup Talkspace, which picked up $50 million in Series D funding a few months ago.
But the industry shouldn't discount seniors. Although adults aged 65 and up are less likely to switch providers to one offering telehealth and would prefer to go to the emergency room for urgent care, one-fourth are currently using a mobile health app, and 84% said they would have a video visit for a prescription renewal.
Seniors could be a particularly lucrative market for telehealth vendors looking to gobble up a chunk of that market, forecast to reach $16.8 billion by 2020.
CMS finalized a rule in April giving privately run Medicare Advantage plans more flexibility in offering virtual care benefits at a lower cost, starting in the 2020 plan year.
That flexibility has spurred partnerships and new offerings in the space. For example, American Well partnered with tech conglomerate Cisco on in-home telehealth options for older patients, including converting already existing TV sets to patient portals for care delivery.
Telehealth's potential benefits are especially heightened in rural areas, where people may be dozens of miles away from the closest provider. In July, the Federal Communications Commission approved a pilot program aimed at improving virtual care services in rural areas, where roughly 20% of the country's population lives.
However, laws prevent widespread adoption of the tech in the Medicare population. Currently, patients must be in an originating site when telehealth services are furnished, even if they live in a rural health professional shortage area.
Although a majority of states have adopted parity policies for private payer coverage for telehealth services, there are distinct gaps, including limitations on settings, staffing shortages and distance restrictions.
One way around such barriers is increased consumer education. Only 20% of people have heard of telehealth, according to health system Intermountain Healthcare. American Well called that a "tremendous opportunity."