There are many variables driving the exponential growth of telehealth over the past several years, such as decreased healthcare costs, improved healthcare services access, and maintaining and/or improving healthcare quality. Yet perhaps the most powerful factor pushing the expansion is patient satisfaction with the telehealth process and services provided.
Telehealth patient satisfaction scores highly for the following reasons:
Convenience of receiving care from home, work or anywhere else the patient chooses
Decreased or no need for prescheduled appointments
Drastically shorter wait times
No exposure to sick patients in the provider’s waiting room
Overall lower healthcare costs
Broader access to a variety of healthcare providers and specialists
In fact, a recent study by Athena Health showed that for live, in-person care, a patient spends more than 100 minutes commuting, waiting, and filling out paperwork for every 20 minutes actually spent with a healthcare provider. And, in fact, these figures are significantly worse for those living in rural and/or low population areas.
Even in high population areas the average patient wait time for a scheduled primary care appointment exceeds three weeks. To see a specialist, an appointment may be six weeks out, or more. Telehealth significantly cuts down on these wait times.
Not surprisingly, tech-savvy Millennials are key to driving this growth, with 40% reporting that telehealth is either very important or extremely important to them, according to a recent study published by the Employee Benefit Research Institute In addition, the baby boomer generation is becoming comfortable with such technologies as Skype and Facetime as a way to communicate with distant family members, making them more amenable to virtual healthcare services.
While the business case for telehealth is often centered around cost savings, productivity and absenteeism, it would be unwise to downplay the importance of patient satisfaction to the past, current and future growth of telehealth. As Steve Jobs said to skeptical Apple executives a little more than a decade ago regarding the upcoming iPhone product, “Let’s launch it and let the people decide with their wallets.” The iPhone started the mobile revolution in 2007, the positive repercussions of which we are still seeing today.