Survey designed to measure patient satisfaction with telemedicine visits

With more practices offering telemedicine services, there’s now a survey designed specifically to measure patient satisfaction during those encounters.

Press Ganey, the country's leading provider of patient satisfaction surveys, has just come out with new surveys to measure patients’ experience after a virtual visit at a medical practice, a sign that telemedicine is becoming mainstream.

“With the growing application of digital technology in healthcare, virtual interactions with patients are on the rise,” James Merlino, M.D., Press Ganey’s chief transformation officer, said in announcement. “The unique nature of telemedicine calls for specialized feedback mechanisms so doctors can ensure the patient experience of virtual care is equal to their standards for face-to-face visits.”

A study last year added to mounting evidence that telemedicine can save patients two things they value most: time and money. Patients and family members saved an average of $50 in travel costs and recouped just under an hour in time by using telehealth technology for sports medicine appointments.

The new surveys measure some of the same factors that patients are asked about in rating traditional visits at medical practices, such as communication skills of the care provider, but they also ask about how the technology worked.

Press Ganey created two surveys—one that measures fully virtual visits and one that measures partially virtual visits where a patient comes into the medical practice office, but then sees the physician via video or another virtual medium. A fully virtual visit occurs when the patient and provider are located in their own spaces and the entire encounter takes place via a video connection.

The surveys include scientifically validated questions to address all aspects of a patient’s experience during the virtual visits, the company said. The surveys will provide data for practices to track performance and trends. They will also allow practitioners to compare patient satisfaction against other virtual visits or traditional in-person visits.

It will also give physicians a look at how technology affected the patient experience.

RELATED: Telemedicine saves patients time and money, study shows

Increasingly, standalone primary care providers and specialists are finding value in seeing patients remotely—both to keep revenues that might otherwise go to outside telemedicine providers and as a cost-effective way to attract patients from a wider region.

Healthcare providers still lack clarity around the future of telehealth reimbursement, but that’s not stopping them from growing their programs. A survey last year found nearly 60% of providers plan to expand the telehealth service lines or push the technology into other specialties.

Those efforts could get a further boost as GOP lawmakers are working to draft a bill that would expand the coverage of telehealth services under Medicare, according to Morning Consult. The House Ways and Means Committee is drafting legislation with the goal of reducing expensive emergency room visits.

A poll by the Medical Group Management Association earlier this year found just 15% of practices plan to offer telemedicine services in 2018, down from 18% in last year's survey. And despite telemedicine’s growing popularity throughout 2017, most providers haven’t been persuaded to implement programs: 39% said they would not provide care via telehealth and 20% were still unsure. Respondents cited physician buy-in, reimbursement and lack of need for their specialty as the primary reasons they haven’t planned any telehealth initiatives.