Barriers To Consumer Health Adoption Are Falling

A new survey has concluded that the bulk of Americans are not connected with or using telehealth services, including, notably, those in rural areas for whom telemedical services should be a lifeline. However, other details captured by the survey suggest that barriers to telehealth adoption are not as high as they may have been in the past.

The survey, by J.D. Power, found that roughly 10% of Americans have used telehealth, but that about 75% either don’t have access to or aren’t aware of such access options for them. A lack of telehealth awareness was especially noticeable in rural areas, accounting for 72% of respondents. Just 8.7% of rural residents had used such services, compared with 11.7% of suburban and 11% of urban residents.

Roughly 40% of consumers said their health system or insurance provider didn’t offer telehealth, with another 35% reporting that they didn’t know whether or not such services were offered by their health plan or system.

The segment of Americans most likely to have used telehealth services was young, female patients aged 18 to 24. They used telehealth more than any other age group, with 13.1% having done so. Seniors aged 65+, in turn, had the lowest usage rates at 5.3% Meanwhile, adults aged 35-44 had the second-highest telehealth engagement levels, with 11.8% reporting that they’d used telehealth services within the past year.

Worries about how effective telehealth can be may also be an obstacle to further consumer uptake of telehealth, with JD Power finding that 49% of respondents felt that the quality of care delivered via telehealth would be lower than that they would get from visiting a doctor in his or her office. Another 43% also said that they believed a telehealth session would be less personal than an office visit. Meanwhile, 45% felt the quality would be the same, and 6% felt it would offer higher-quality care.

Despite having some reservations about the quality of care they’ll receive, consumers seem open to trying telehealth under the right conditions. For example, 64% of survey respondents reported that they would be more likely to use such services if the cost was less than their copay for an in-person doctor’s visit.

In sum, while there are still some meaningful barriers to consumer telehealth use, the results of this survey suggest that consumers are ready to engage with telehealth if providers make them aware of this option and price it attractively.  In fact, if the right business model tweaks are put in place, consumer demand could become a driving force in the expansion of this market – something providers should prepare for very soon if they haven’t already.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.