Patients increasingly open to video doctor visits

Patient acceptance of telehealth services is growing, with 64 percent of patients recently surveyed by Harris Poll on behalf of telehealth company American Well saying they are willing to consider a video chat with their doctor instead of an in-person visit.

Based on responses from 2,019 consumers, a majority are open to the convenience and reduced wait times involved in an e-visit. The survey characterizes telehealth as a way for health systems to offer a lower-cost, more convenient alternative to in-person case.

Another recent study found that a telehealth visit saves about $100 or more compared to the estimated cost for in-person care. It put the cost of the average telehealth visit at $40 to $50, while in-person care can cost as much as $176.

If a patient were sick in the middle of the night, 44 percent of respondents to the Harris Poll said they would go to the emergency room, but 21 percent would choose a video visit; 17 percent who said they would consult a 24-hour nurse line. Thirty percent of those with children under 18 said they would choose an e-visit. And at least 70 percent would choose a video visit to obtain a prescription.

To obtain a diagnosis, 63 percent of respondents said they would prefer a video visit to a telephone consultation (30 percent) or email (7 percent).

At the same time, 88 percent said they want to select the doctor with whom they have the video chat, rather than be assigned one randomly. And 7 percent of consumers said they were willing to switch doctors to get online video visits, a percentage "high enough to be a cause of serious concern for most practices," according to the survey report.

Telehealth is gaining traction, as more states address barriers such as cross-state licensure and reimbursement. Earlier this month, New York became the 22nd state to pass legislation requiring that telehealth visits be reimbursed at the same rate as in-person visits.

To learn more:
- check out the survey results (.pdf)