Survey: As expected, patients fearful of in-person visits are turning to telehealth
Thursday, May 28, 2020
COVID-19 has touched about every area of our lives; healthcare is obviously no different. According to a new survey of U.S. healthcare consumers, 72% of consumers say they have changed their use of traditional healthcare services dramatically because of the pandemic.
The survey was conducted and released by the Alliance of Community Health Plans (ACHP) and the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP). According to researchers, these delays highlight a bigger issue of how providers are going to face an uphill battle convincing their patients to return for in-person care by putting aside fears of contracting the virus and shortages of care because of the virus.
Per the findings, 41% of people delayed care services. Forty-two percent added that they feel uncomfortable going to a hospital for any medical treatment because of the virus, and 45% are opting to steer clear of urgent care and walk-in clinics.
Almost three-quarters of people said they expect the virus to return later in the year, which they said will impact their elective surgery — 38% said they would delay scheduling elective procedures for at least another six months.
But another group of places where sick people congregate — pharmacies — don't carry the same stigma. About half of the people surveyed said they are just fine with picking up their prescriptions and even speaking to a pharmacist about their medication. Less than 10% who said they've picked up a prescription in the past three months used home delivery. This compared to 90% who said they used a retail pharmacy.
“Consumers’ confidence in pharmacists is impressive with significant percentages filling their prescriptions at a retail pharmacy over the past three months and stating they would feel comfortable getting tested for COVID-19 at a pharmacy,” said Susan Cantrell, CEO of the AMCP, in a statement.
Pharmacists could also play a role in educating citizens about the pandemic and instilling confidence to get the care they need.
"The pandemic has put consumers in a healthcare tailspin: They want to be tested for COVID-19, and for that, they rank their doctor's office as the place they would feel most comfortable," said Ceci Connolly, president and CEO of ACHP, in a statement. "However, for all other healthcare services and treatment, consumers want to delay visiting healthcare facilities altogether."
Telehealth continues to receive high marks for its ability to keep patients connected to their doctors.
Twenty-eight percent said they used virtual care over the past three months, nearly tripling the previously average number of uses. Of these folks, about 90% (89%) said the telehealth experience satisfied their need. At the same time, 46% of people said they are comfortable trying telehealth.
Based on a survey by Sage Growth Partner (SGP) and Black Book Market Research, 25% of people in a separate study said they'd used telehealth before the COVID-19 pandemic. Fifty-nine percent said they are more likely to use telehealth services now than previously, and 33% would leave their current physician for a provider who offered telehealth access.
Additionally, in a recent survey, 45% of people asked said that the pandemic is impacting their mental health. Thus, the use of virtual visits for mental health needs is reaching record highs.
Likewise, clearing the way for further use and access to telehealth, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has established a $200 million COVID-19 Telehealth Program designed to assist eligible care providers with the ability to treat patients through telemedicine.
For providers concerned about prescribing controlled substances via telehealth, until a short while ago, this was not something even considered viable. The virus changed that conversation. Recently, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) relaxed some requirements for doing so and now allows physicians to prescribe controlled substances based on a telemedicine visit during the pandemic.
Finally, for patients needing a knee brace or crutches or other similar devices, non-urgent equipment can now be shipped to the patient without a physical signature.
Follow-up telehealth visits can allow for the fitting session until the patient can be assessed in person. Despite patients' fears of visiting care facilities in-person, telehealth is helping some see their physicians.
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