Today in the chart

No, It’s Not Just Millennials Who Want to Try Telehealth

The results of a recent poll asking American adults about their telehealth habits may surprise you, especially when it comes to seniors.

Telemedicine has long been associated with young consumers. Millennial patients seek out its convenience, but it’s a complicated technology that overwhelms older patients, right? Unfortunately, recent research indicates the profile of the average telehealth user is less predictable than that. 

According to a survey from Harris Poll, funded by telemedicine provider American Well, roughly two-thirds of American adults use personal health monitoring devices. Moreover, they are willing to use telehealth — but only 8% have tried it. That means there’s a tremendous opportunity to tailor telehealth services by generation. For example, millennials want to use it for mental health care, while older adults believe it could simplify prescription renewal processes and chronic disease management. In addition, middle-aged adults are open to using telemedicine for urgent care.

American Well shared other strategies for creating telehealth services that resonate with each generation:

  • For adults 55 and older: Integrate telehealth into existing apps; offer prescription renewals; market telehealth as an alternative to the ED; emphasize cost- and time-savings and convenience; provide technology guidance; PCPs should offer telehealth.
  • For adults 34 to 55 years old: Emphasize the convenience and time-saving in marketing materials; market telehealth options inside the clinic; explain telehealth insurance coverage; offer prescription renewals.
  • For adults 18 to 35 years old: PCPs should market telehealth services to patients outside their network, emphasize cost-savings, and offer mental health services.

Some other interesting findings from the survey include:

Who Uses Telehealth

  • The gender breakdown of telehealth users was almost equal, with 49% men and 50% women.
  • Almost half of the participants who have used telehealth live in the South, possibly because this region is rural and its residents often struggle to access care.
  • 69% of consumers with a college degree are willing to use telehealth, versus 61% of those with a high school diploma or less.
  • Currently employed consumers are more likely to use telehealth (72%) compared to those who are not (57%).

When and How To Use Telehealth

  • When asked where they would seek care in the middle of the night if they or a loved one were sick with a high fever, only 18% of respondents said telehealth compared to 52% who said the ER.
  • Parents are more willing to use telehealth for themselves than their children. Some 70% of respondents who’ve tried telehealth have kids, but only 20% of pro-telehealth participants said they’d use it with a pediatrician.
  • Only 6% of respondents said their PCPs use telehealth, when in reality, almost one-quarter, 23%, provide such services.
  • Some 25% of consumers said they’d switch their PCP to one that offered telehealth, up from 20% in 2017.

Why Use Telehealth?

  • Of the consumers willing to use telehealth, 61% said its convenience and faster service appealed; 54% said to save money.
  • Overall, 72% of pro-telehealth customers want it for prescription renewals. This desire increases with age. For adults 45+, that number is 80%.
  • 56% of consumers would use video visits for chronic disease check-ins.
  • Only 26% of millennials said they are willing to use telehealth for urgent care, compared to 47% of consumers aged 45 to 54 and 44% aged 65+.
  • 38% of millennials were interested in seeing a doctor over video for mental healthcare.

Why Not Use Telehealth?

  • The 34% of consumers unwilling to use telehealth gave the following reasons: a preference for in-person care, concerns about privacy, uncertainty about reimbursement, concerns about technology, and uncertainty about how to use it.
  • The same percentage of seniors and millennials (16%) listed concerns about technology as a barrier.

Takeaways for Providers

  • Consider why consumers want to use telehealth (ex., prescription renewal, chronic disease management), and make sure your service includes those capabilities.
  • Target info about your telehealth services based on age. Make sure millennials know mental health services are included, seniors know it is a viable alternative to the ER, etc.
  • Suggest telehealth to patients requiring follow-up care.
  • Use in-clinic marketing to make sure consumers know about your telehealth program.
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