The Vast Majority of Consumers Want to Use Telehealth, But are Not

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Healthcare consumers may love the idea of virtual care, but so far few are actually taking advantage of it. That’s the core message coming out of a recent Vivify Health survey, which showed 83% of consumers are interested in receiving virtual care, but only 17% have access to it.

While clinicians broadly share their patients’ enthusiasm for greater utilization of virtual care programs, regulatory and industry barriers have impeded broader access and as a result, adoption has been slow. Still, with the global remote patient monitoring (RPM) market alone expected to surpass $1.6 billion by 2026, it appears the tide is turning. With the new RPM reimbursement in the 2019 Physician Fee Schedule and with further pending regulatory changes in the coming years, there will be a greater expansion for physicians to improve patient outcomes and engage those patients with chronic conditions.

Virtual care received an important boost in November 2018 when CMS Administrator Seema Verma addressed the Alliance for Connected Care Telehealth Policy Forum for Health Systems. Verma told the audience, “Telehealth is changing the very face of healthcare. Telehealth innovations could help usher in a new world of healthcare that is embraced by both patients and providers, that identifies new avenues of care delivery, and that improves the value of care by increasing its quality while lowering its cost.”

“Historically,” Verma added, “telehealth has been used to connect patients who are in one provider setting to a specialist located at a distant site. But technology is moving quickly beyond that use, and CMS and Congress have to keep up. There’s no reason today that seniors shouldn’t be able to use their smart phones to connect to their doctors—especially as it’s what patients want and need, and leverages today’s technology and innovation.”

Patients Hungry for Change 
Of Vivify Health survey respondents, 72% indicted they would prefer to request a virtual visit from their physician if one is available versus going into the office. Further, nearly three-quarters stated that having access to virtual care would improve not only their opinion of, but their loyalty toward, their provider. More than two-thirds of respondents believe that allowing their physician to manage their care virtually will help improve their health conditions. Virtual visits are now a key part of long-term patient monitoring programs, allowing virtual check-ins which enable patients to extend the durations between doctor’s visits or unplanned hospital stays.

“What is abundantly clear from the survey is that there is a huge pent-up demand for virtual care among consumers,” said Eric Rock, CEO of Vivify Health. “Scheduling a virtual visit is great for extending the reach of episodic care. But what consumers need is continual care. Much of what happens in a physician’s office, such as taking vital signs or looking into visible symptoms, could be handled just as well virtually and on a daily basis. This is not only more convenient for the patient but also more efficient for the practice. By making the medical home the patient’s actual home when it’s appropriate, we can elevate the level of care, catch developing issues earlier, and do a better job of keeping patients healthier.”

The results of the Vivify survey are in line with data from industry experts. For example, according to a McKinsey & Company study, roughly 70% of consumers prefer digital healthcare solutions. With patient-as-a-payer taking over a lion’s share of the market, patients have now come to expect a retail-like experience from their healthcare providers.

The New Frontier of Remote Care
One of the most significant barriers to telehealth to date has been the question of how physicians will be compensated for the time spent on remote care. It appears, however that the reimbursement landscape is now changing. Beginning in January 2020, Medicare Advantage plans will be empowered and financially incentivized to expand their use of telehealth, including remote patient monitoring, in ways they weren’t before. Plans will have more flexibility to offer new forms of telehealth as part of additional telehealth benefits not previously available in Medicare Advantage.

CMS is intent on making the same shift in primary care transformation. With regulations shifting, consumers having a keen interest in re-examining how they monitor their care. This shift is creating the perfect opportunity to examine the ways in which practices and health systems can increase telehealth utilization to improve the patient/provider experience and generate positive health outcomes.

“Every single patient interaction is an opportunity for engagement, and our platform gives patients the continual access to their care team,” Rock said. “We give patients the ability to request a virtual visit, exchange text messaging securely, and send health status to their care team, allowing for monumental improvements to the overall patient experience.”

While healthcare providers might be reluctant to change, consumers do not appear to share their concerns. Of the survey respondents, 69% expressed no concern with the security of their information being protected if they were to virtually correspond with their physician over the Internet.

“The best way to put providers at ease is to ensure they have partnered with a digital health solutions provider who is continuously developing robust technology safeguards and secure information-sharing processes to ensure patients’, providers’, and payers’ data remains private and protected,” added Rock.

Over the years, Vivify Health has pursued – and earned – industry-leading security standards and prestigious certifications including SOC2. These measures influence the innovative practices and procedures they follow for protecting against unauthorized access, maintaining the availability of their service, and protecting the confidential information of their customers, all while delivering the highest patient data protection standards.

When asked how they would like to manage their care, more than three-quarters of respondents indicated their preference to use their own device, whether a smartphone, tablet, or computer, rather than having their physician or hospital issue them one.

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