- A new survey conducted by Social Sciences Research Solutions for the Bipartisan Policy Center concludes that telehealth is likely an ongoing viable option for consumers even after the COVID-19 pandemic winds down.
- According to the survey, more than 90% of patients said they were satisfied with their telehealth visits and were likely to use them again in the future, although most were for relatively minor issues. And 80% said their primary medical issue was resolved as a result of their telehealth visit.
- Officials who oversaw the study believe that telehealth could be an effective tool in cutting down unnecessary emergency room visits, although a relative lack of access to broadband services in rural areas could pose an obstacle.
Telehealth has been widely deployed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and a recent McKinsey survey says it is stabilizing at nearly 40 times its use prior to COVID-19. The new survey by SRRS puts numbers to its efficacy.
SRRS surveyed nearly 1,800 consumers between June 28 and July 18. Although it tried to weigh for demographics, Blacks, Latinos and rural residents were oversampled, researchers said.
According to the survey, 31% of adults and 44% of Medicare beneficiaries had a telehealth visit in the last year. Blacks and rural residents were more likely than Whites and non-rural residents to have used telehealth services in the past year.
The visits were for mostly routine services, such as annual physicals, chronic care followups and prescription refills. Only 11% used telehealth for an "illness, injury or condition that needed care right away." However, only 4% of those were sent to a hospital emergency department at the end of their visit.
Overall, eight out of 10 surveyed said they were satisfied with their visit, include 95% of Medicare enrollees, although that cohort was more likely to have had an audio-only visit. Among those whose issue was resolved by the telehealth visit, 96% were satisfied. But even among those patients whose issue was not resolved, 84% said they were satisfied.
"New telehealth flexibilities have allowed millions of Americans to access healthcare from home, and as our survey shows, telehealth has the potential to take non-emergency cases out of the emergency department," said Bipartisan Policy Center Health Project Director Marilyn Serafini.
However, there were some obstacles to obtaining a telehealth visit. Eleven percent said access to a broadband connection was an issue, and 9% said they did not have access to a computer with video capability.
"Telehealth has helped transform the way healthcare has been delivered during COVID-19; however, broadband remains an obstacle that must be addressed, especially in rural areas," said Walter Panzirer, a trustee of the Helmsley Charitable Trust, which funded the survey.