By Kat Jercich
In its second “state of telemedicine” report, virtual care platform vendor Doximity found that roughly three-quarters of patients surveyed said they plan to continue using telehealth after the pandemic.
The report, which surveyed 2,000 patients and more than 1,000 physicians, found evidence that virtual care had helped build trust among users.
“The results of our study suggest doctors and patients alike have found it easy and convenient to adopt telemedicine, so much so that they plan to continue using it after the pandemic,” said Doximity VP of product Peter Alperin in a statement.
WHY IT MATTERS
The Doximity report sought to forecast future telemedicine trends by analyzing telehealth adoption across its user base from January 2020 through June 2021 and conducting a study of patients’ experiences with telemedicine during the same time frame.
Boston was the metro area with the highest telemedicine adoption rate among physicians, according to the report, followed by Baltimore, Charlotte, North Carolina, Philadelphia and San Francisco.
Adoption was strong across all physician age groups, the report found, with higher rates among endocrinologists, gastroenterologists and rheumatologists.
Two-thirds of the physicians surveyed felt that access to telehealth helped build or maintain trust with patients from historically marginalized communities.
“One possible explanation is that telemedicine increased patient feelings of safety, providing access to care without the potential infectious exposure risk (and inconvenience) of in-person visits to busy clinical settings,” wrote researchers.
“Another factor influencing patient trust may be the ease of including family and other caregivers in a virtual setting, regardless of their physical location,” they continued.
When it came to patient perspectives, more than 73% of the patients surveyed said they planned to receive “some” or “all” of their care via telehealth after the pandemic.
Report authors observed that this rate was consistent across different race and ethnicity groups.
“It’s clear that telemedicine is now an expected part of their healthcare experience, even as they think about life beyond the pandemic,” they said.
Still, they noted that broadband access remains an important factor in health equity and virtual care access. The survey found that 19% of patients with household income below $25,000 depended on their smartphones for internet access at home.
Healthcare systems can promote health equity by investing in mobile-first solutions that optimize for potentially slower, variable internet speeds,” said the researchers.
THE LARGER TREND
Although telehealth utilization rates have certainly decreased since the famed April 2020 spike, many industry stakeholders have closely followed usage rates over the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Sanjula Jain, chief research officer at Trilliant Health, says it’s important to look at why and how patients are using telehealth, not just who’s doing it.
“It’s not to say that virtual care companies won’t be successful, but you have to know the bounds of your consumer base,” she told Healthcare IT News this past month. “It doesn’t mean you can’t build a viable business around it.”
ON THE RECORD
“We anticipate that demand for telemedicine service options will remain strong, and healthcare systems may even find themselves competing to provide the best telemedicine experience,” wrote Doximity researchers.