A new survey finds that fear of COVID-19 contamination is keeping patients away from the doctor, and telehealth could ease those fears by turning in-person visits to virtual visits.
Roughly a third of the roughly 1,300 patients surveyed earlier this year by Luma Health say they’re less confident now in the healthcare industry than they were prior to the coronavirus pandemic, and almost 40 percent say that’s negatively affected their health – including more than a quarter who say their mental health is suffering.
More to the point, the survey found that 35 percent have missed appointments, and 14 percent said they’ve had to defer surgeries or procedures.
Healthcare providers, meanwhile, have rushed to launch telehealth and mHealth services during the pandemic to reduce in-person traffic – 83 percent of the 165 providers surveyed by Luma Health are now using connected health tools and platforms. But with the pandemic showing no signs of letting up, those providers need to make telehealth more mainstream and convince patients to use it for more than just COVID-19 treatment.
Stakes are high on both sides. Patients who postpone or skip care run a higher risk of developing more serious health issues, requiring more extensive and costly care down the road. Providers, meanwhile, are struggling to stay afloat at a time when in-person care is restricted. They’re furloughing staff, seeing reduced patient volumes and losing money because their patients aren’t seeking care that they should be seeking.
The Luma Health survey is one of several that have identified a significant pain point in telehealth adoption during COVID-19 – a decrease in care management, particularly for people with chronic conditions. Telehealth could reduce that burden, but providers have to create pathways to virtual care management that will attract skittish patients.
The interest is there. According to the survey, 94 percent of patients said telehealth and mHealth tools would be beneficial to managing chronic health concerns. And more than 80 percent of those surveyed said they are either comfortable or somewhat comfortable with using telehealth, while more than 90 percent have been satisfied or somewhat satisfied with past virtual care experiences.
What’s more, both providers and patients know that telehealth won’t go away when the pandemic eases. Almost 90 percent of providers surveyed agree, strongly agree or somewhat agree that telehealth will be a permanent part of the healthcare landscape, and 64 percent of patients expect to use it more often (another 24 percent expect no change in how they use telehealth).
The key will be in finding that sweet spot between what needs to be provided in-person and what can be done on a telehealth platform and convincing patients that care management can be done virtually as well as in those scheduled trips to the doctor’s office.