Patients wary of telemedicine, distrust virtual diagnosis

Patients responding to a recent survey said they would be less likely to use telemedicine services compared to an in-person visit with a physician. 

The findings come from a study by TechnologyAdvice Research, which surveyed 504 adults in the U.S. about their opinions on telemedicine services.

Roughly 65 percent of respondents said they would be "somewhat or very unlikely" to use telemedicine in place of a face-to-face meeting with their provider. However, the same amount said they would be more accepting of a telemedicine appointment if they had previously met with the doctor in person.

Other findings include:

  • 36.7 percent of respondents said they would feel uncomfortable with a virtual visit
  • 45 percent would trust a diagnosis via telemedicine less than one given in person
  • 1.1 percent would trust a telemedicine diagnosis more than one made in person
  • Patients 65 and older were more likely (54.1 percent) to say they didn't trust telemedicine diagnosis at all
  • More convenient scheduling options was the main incentive to use of telemedicine by respondents

Patient distrust in telemedicine is "perhaps the largest issue that telemedicine vendors and healthcare providers will need to overcome," Cameron Graham, managing editor at TechnologyAdvice and the study's author, said in an announcement. "If patients don't trust the diagnoses made during telemedicine calls, they may ignore the advice given, fail to take preventative steps, or seek additional in-­person appointments, which defeats the point of telemedicine."

However, previous studies have shown a rise in interest in telemedicine by consumers.

Sixty-four percent of patients surveyed by Harris Poll on behalf of telehealth company American Well said they were 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.

Telemedicine also is expanding in states such as Arizona at a time when a shortage of physicians threatens the reach of care. In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently came out in support of the technology, although only if it's integrated into the patient-centered medical home model.

To learn more:
- here's the study
- read the announcement (.pdf)