While the pandemic has surely accelerated the adoption of digital healthcare in general, video-based telemedicine witnessed the highest growth among the many new-age solutions and their impact on customer satisfaction, reveals a new report by Rock Health and the Stanford Center for Digital Health.
More consumers used live video telemedicine than ever before, the ‘Digital Health Consumer Adoption Report’, found. After leveling off between 2018 and 2019, the adoption of live video care increased 11% in 2020, with 43% of respondents reporting that they had a video visit (compared to 32% in 2019). This clearly indicates a significant and swift shift to live video.
Higher-income earners, middle-aged adults (aged 35-54), highly educated, and those with chronic conditions were the most likely users of telemedicine in 2020, same as in the case of past years.
The study found that customer satisfaction with live video consultation was higher in the pandemic period than previous years. Ninety percent of live video and 86% of live phone users were extremely or moderately satisfied with their visit. Satisfaction was highest for live video visits, followed by text message and picture or video. To be noted, this could also be due to the lack of a viable or safe alternatives for in-person visits during the pandemic.
“Our survey data suggest that the level of consumer satisfaction with telehealth in particular will make it an attractive alternative for some demographic subgroups even after in-person care once again becomes a safe option. In the near term, a second round of stay-at-home orders, a sluggish vaccine rollout, and fears about traditional healthcare sites are likely to further reinforce use of telemedicine and a range of other digital health tools,” the report said.
In 2020, fewer customers reported using other forms of telemedicine such as live phone visits, text messaging, and email than in past years, it found. The overall reduction in healthcare utilisation across-the-board could be the main reason behind the drop in non-video telemedicine usage. Consumers used substantially less healthcare overall, both in person and via telemedicine.
Overall, telehealth visits constituted about 14% of baseline total outpatient visits at peak adoption in mid-April 2020. The rate of telehealth visits leveled off around 6-7% as of October 2020, but remained substantially greater than the pre-pandemic level of 0.1%.
The report fundamentally tried to understand consumer behaviours in 2020 compared to the five prior years. Data was gathered between September 4, 2020 and October 2, 2020, seven months after COVID-19 was declared a national emergency on March 13, 2020. It particularly looked at how adoption of different digital health tools differed based on consumer demographics during the early stages of the pandemic.
The report also examined customer data-sharing preferences. Like in the previous years, willingness to share data depends on who it is being shared with. Consumers remained most willing to share their health data with their doctor (72%), health insurer (53%), and family (52%).
The report said its findings show a very promising picture for digital healthcare entrepreneurs and investors.
“While a majority of respondents (70%) used at least one channel of telemedicine (i.e., live video, live phone, text, email, app, pic or video message), 30% of respondents reported not accessing any form of telemedicine. Most of this group reported their preference is still to discuss health in person. Still, this represents a large untapped consumer market with opportunities for startups, investors, and healthcare enterprises to further explore how to meet this population’s needs, particularly in the context of hybrid care models that integrate ongoing tech-based support with the in-person care people know and trust—and with the potential for very favorably improving healthcare engagement and clinical outcomes,” the report said.