Survey Shows Major Acceptance of Telemedicine as People Overcome Common Myths

According to an AHIP/NORC survey, more people are open to telemedicine. Virtual visits cut down on travel, time off from work, and the need for childcare. Telehealth also gives people easy access to specialists and other health care providers.

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Survey Shows Major Acceptance of Telemedicine as People Overcome Common Myths
6 Min Read January 23rd, 2023

The use of telehealth and telemedicine is becoming commonplace. Due to the COVID-19 virus crisis, telemedicine visits—which enable patients and their healthcare teams to consult virtually using secure video-based platforms—have rapidly increased. Additionally, it makes patients in rural areas more accessible to specialty treatment which had only been available in major cities available nationwide.

Alexander T. Hawkins, MD, MPH, FACS, associate professor of surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, says they see patients who live hours away. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Hawkins said it threw fuel on the fire of their telehealth program.

Alexander T. Hawkins

Across the entire healthcare system, we now do about 20,000 telehealth visits a month. Previously, there had been concerns about whether we could effectively communicate with patients remotely, but we found that patients are just as satisfied with telehealth visits as in-person appointments.

A recent study evaluated the level of shared decision-making and communication between video sessions and in-patient visits. Researchers thought they would see that telemedicine would be less successful. However, study co-author Thomas Ueland, a third-year medical student at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, said many patients were very positive about their experience with telemedicine.

I was surprised by the qualitative responses. I expected that telemedicine visits would result in an inferior quality of communication. While we did see that in some responses, we also saw some very positive perspectives on telemedicine visits both in terms of how the actual interaction went and the overall convenience of the process. Many patients really enjoyed having this as an option.

Yet, those who have access to telemedicine sometimes have reservations about potential issues that might arise. There are several myths you should consider if you are considering using telemedicine.

Transforming Health Care and Access

Technology has transformed how people live their lives. These days, people do more things remotely than ever before. Working, shopping, and staying in touch with friends can all be done from the comfort of your home. So why shouldn't health care become remotely accessible too?

Because health care professionals can see you in your home setting, telemedicine can be advantageous in many situations. 

Despite so many things going digital, there's still much resistance regarding remote health care. This trepidation is likely because anything from miscommunication to poor technical skills could derail a critical session. 

However, many of these concerns are unfounded, and telemedicine is not going away.

"Prior to COVID-19, telemedicine was approved primarily for rural areas. During COVID-19, telemedicine has become a powerful tool for delivering care at our academic campuses. Post-COVID-19, we don't envision going back," says William D. Freeman, M.D., a neurocritical care specialist at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.

Here are some common myths about telemedicine to consider.

“I Need a Physical Exam to Stay Healthy”

For most people, going to the doctor for a checkup means being there in person for a diagnosis. However, in many cases, specialists can diagnose patients based on their health records and stated symptoms.

The great thing about telemedicine is that it saves you and your doctor time by allowing you to skip the waiting room and get straight to your appointment. Remember that not everyone can see the doctor in person, making telehealth an excellent alternative for staying on top of your well-being.

“I Won't Be Able to See a Real Doctor”

Some might view telehealth as a less professional option because it involves meeting the health care provider over the internet. This assumption couldn't be further from the truth. Professional health care providers from different backgrounds are willing and able to meet their patients remotely for checkups.

Researchers have found that many specialists use telemedicine to interact with patients, including radiologists, psychiatrists, and cardiologists.

Some worry that forming a personal relationship with their health care provider might be more challenging. Rest assured that virtual care will allow you to get even closer to your doctor. A variety of quality-of-life improvements also help telemedicine work for elderly patients. The addition of remote appointments and scheduling options enables you to have regular checkups without disruption.

“My Personal Information Won't Be Secure”

Another major problem that some people have is sharing their personal data online. Generally speaking, it's a good idea to keep your private information to yourself, but telemedicine is actually very secure.

Connecting with your health care physician online with telehealth is safe and secure. Your telehealth visits, messages, and information are protected by privacy laws, just like in-person care.

Digital technologies such as cloud-based teleconferencing and record management software offer a reliable way to interact with caregivers and share important information without compromising security. If you're in a rural or hard-to-reach location, many experts suggest that there is no reason to hesitate to use telemedicine to communicate with your provider.

“The Tools Are Too Complicated to Use”

Some people might be worried that the tools used for telemedicine are too complicated. While that may have been true in the past, most modern consumer-facing software is designed to be simple and easy to use.

Things like connecting to the internet, turning on a webcam, and syncing wearable medical devices have been streamlined to the point that almost anybody can do it. Telemedicine has come a long way with improved patient engagement processes and well-designed software.

“Don't Miss Out on One of the Most Flexible Care Options”

Telemedicine is a great way to go through your general checkups and exams without going to the doctor's office. While it may sometimes be necessary to have a physical checkup, telemedicine gives many people convenient access to their doctors, specialists, and other health care professionals.

Research Shows People More Open to Telehealth

In research conducted by AHIP and the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago, respondents said using telehealth is more convenient than in-person appointments and makes it easier to seek out health care when needed. An overwhelming majority of respondents also said that Congress should make permanent certain provisions that allow for health insurance coverage of telehealth services before paying their full deductible.

Jeanette Thornton, Executive Vice President of Policy and Strategy at AHIP (a national trade organization of health care insurers), said that patients and providers accept – and often prefer – digital technologies as an essential part of health care delivery.

Telehealth can be just as effective as in-person care for many conditions and allows patients to receive more services 'where they are.' That's why health insurance providers are committed to strengthening and improving both access and use for the millions of Americans who use telehealth for their health care needs.

NORC surveyed 1000 Americans, 498 of whom have employer-provided or individual market coverage (commercially insured), about their telehealth use within the past year. Among the commercially insured who completed the survey, 40% used telehealth within the past year. Key findings include:

  • The majority of respondents said they use telehealth because it is more convenient than an in-person appointment (69%).

  • Nearly 4 in 5 (78%) said telehealth made it easier for them to seek out health care when they need it.

  • A strong majority - 85% - said there are an adequate number of medical providers available to them via telehealth for the health needs they have.

  • More than half - 53% - used telehealth between 2 and 5 times over the past year.

  • Nearly 3 in 4 (73%) said Congress should make permanent the provisions that allowed for coverage of telehealth services before paying their full deductible.

Telehealth and Long-Term Care

With the rising number of older adults with chronic illnesses and other long-term health care needs, telehealth can be beneficial for the care recipient and their family.

Some rural nursing homes and other long-term care facilities do not always have a doctor on staff. These institutions can employ telehealth to consult with health care experts offsite and avoid sending a patient to the hospital. Telehealth can save money and relieve a patient's physical and mental stress and reduce some of the stress and anxiety on the care recipient's family.

Lisa Bean is a minimum data set (MDS) nurse and the Clinical Reimbursement Coordinator at Alpine Healthcare Center in Keene, New Hampshire. Bean told RHIHub that mental health care is an integral part of their work since the residents are often there due to a traumatic event or life-changing diagnosis and need someone to talk to.

Mental health services are a big hole that needs to be filled right now. And it impacts the elderly person who isn't managing at home anymore because of their vision and their cognition and maybe their diabetes and their heart disease. But it's also the people that were homeless and couldn't return to the shelters because of their medical issues.

For those individual's being cared for in their home, professional in-home caregivers can immediately seek assistance from an RN or other medical professional if necessary and avoid having to immediately take the person to the emergency room. 

Electronic monitoring, either at home or in a long-term care facility, can provide immediate status of the care recipient's vitals. 

The benefits of telemedicine, no matter someone's age or overall health, can make life easier and more convenient and allow someone to stay in touch with health care provides, hopefully providing a better quality of life.

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About the Author

Mallory Knee is a freelance writer for multiple online publications where she can showcase her affinity for all things beauty and fashion. She particularly enjoys writing for communities of passionate women who come together for a shared interest and empower one another in the process. In her free time, you can find Mallory trying a fun new dinner recipe, practicing calligraphy, or hanging out with her family.

LTC News Contributor Mallory Knee

Mallory Knee

Contributor since September 25th, 2020

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