The biggest news in August 2019 to hit the telehealth field came with the release of some details from the 2019
J.D. Power Satisfaction Study. Their findings revealed a clear marketing mandate for providers. Healthcare IT News summarized the findings stating, “For the patients standing to gain the most from telehealth, services need to be positioned and explained as a way to reduce costs while maintaining a high level of care.”
2019 J.D. Power Telehealth Satisfaction Survey
“J.D. Power views Telehealth adoption similarly to Mobile Banking adoption – think about it: ten years ago, would you have ever imagined taking a picture of a personal check for mobile deposit?”
--From the study
J.D. Powers will release the full details of their 2019 survey in November, but released some key findings last month for the media and healthcare providers to consider. Their survey sought to quantify the attitudes of Americans toward telehealth technology and determine usage rates and
The survey couldn’t come at a better time as the healthcare industry undertakes their own form of digital transformation in an era of widespread technology use and increasing demand for mobile applications from consumers. This transformation has served as impetus for the growth of telehealth services by patients and doctors along with improvements to reimbursement at the state and federal level. Since 2017, we know that pro-telehealth policies have increased while consumer usage has gone up. However, consumer adoption of these services is still low, and the J.D. Power survey outlined this task for healthcare providers offering the service, “a major education and consumer experience improvement initiative is the logical next step for making Telehealth a standard staple for healthcare delivery among providers."
The Challenge of Telehealth Adoption
It’s important to note that the American Medical Association (AMA) reports that telehealth as a care location increased by 53%, up over every other healthcare venue. But we have a long way to go before the technology realizes its full potential to cut costs and improve access.
The J.D. Power survey suggests that providers must work to promote telehealth to patients by spelling out that the electronic communications by video, text, or phone, can improve access to care over traditional channels, including the ER, clinic, or urgent care.
J.D. Power surveyed healthcare providers within the context of their survey and found that while current user adoption rates by facility seem to lie between 6% and 11%, health systems are predicting a 15% to 25% adoption rate by 2020, particularly in light of CMS rules that improve reimbursement for providers using virtual care methodologies.
What The Survey Revealed
The key findings of the J.D. Power study revealed that only 9.6% of the population surveyed used telehealth in place of an emergency room, urgent care, or traditional doctor’s office visit in the past 12-months. Some of the other findings included:
- Only 8.7% of those surveyed living in rural regions use telemedicine regularly.
- The Western regions of the United States have higher usage of the technology, at 11.1%.
- The Northeast has the lowest adoption rates at 5.7%.
- Younger adults aged 18-24 have used telemedicine services more than any other age group.
- Seniors aged 65 and older have used telehealth less than any other age bracket, at only 5.3%.
- However 10.5% of adults aged 55 to 64 have used the technology.
Awareness of Telehealth
A big finding released in the survey summary is that consumers are simply unaware that telehealth is available. The survey showed:
- 74.3% of consumers do not know if their insurance or healthcare provider even offers telehealth benefits.
- This is particularly concerning in rural areas where access to care is so problematic and telehealth has been put forward as a remedy to solve this issue.
- Consumers that consider their health “poor” do not use telehealth. They cited their perception that a telehealth visit does not provide a high quality of care for their chronic conditions.
- Ironically, the highest numbers of patients that use telemedicine are in “very good” health.
Ironically, the survey also showed that 56.3% of respondents would consider a telehealth provider if ranked highly by J.D. Power.
Perception of the Technology
The survey indicated that telehealth providers are doing a poor job marketing their service as a low cost alternative to the traditional visit. While cost remains a significant driver of consumer satisfaction in an era of high deductible insurance premiums, a significant number of the consumers surveyed didn’t consider the lower cost of a telehealth visit as a motivator to seek out these services. The survey found:
- 48.7% of respondents felt like the quality of care would be lower with telehealth over a traditional office visit.
This is a particularly important point for hospital marketers who seem to be missing the point that telehealth can help reduce the out of pocket costs for patients seeking relief from high deductibles and high premiums. The survey summary from J.D. Power stated:
"It will be important for Telehealth providers to demonstrate the exchange of value of cost and quality in Telehealth services over traditional healthcare services."
The Mandate for Providers
It seems clear that telehealth adoption is increasing, albeit slowly. But the perception of quality and lowered cost needs to improve by highlighting marketing messaging. This is especially important with populations that are most vulnerable, such as the elderly or those with chronic conditions. Organizations that offer telemedicine including insurance payers, employers, individual practices, and health systems, must go beyond the “if you build it they will come” mentality. Instead, the study indicated that patient outreach and education would be crucial to telehealth adoption in the future.
Greg Truex, managing director of health intelligence at J.D. Power, was quoted in Healthcare IT News with this interpretation of the survey data:
"Telehealth technology is maturing, but the relatively low levels of engagement we're seeing implies that major initiatives in both patient education and consumer experience are the next steps in making Telehealth a staple for healthcare delivery in the United States."
OrthoLive knows that telehealth helps patients. Our providers report lowered costs, better access, and improved quality of care for the patients they serve. If you’ve not seen a demo of our newly improved telehealth platform designed exclusively for orthopedic providers, contact us for more information.