It was three years ago on a California road trip that I first experienced a live virtual video visit with a healthcare provider. A friend was visiting from Denmark and needed to see a doctor. With limited access to care and no American health insurance, he turned to a direct-to-consumer app. He paid with a credit card and completed his visit with a doctor using his smartphone in the parking lot of a Community Health Center that did not accept walk-ins. This experience and a new role at NextGen Healthcare led me to ask: “What do patients and providers really want from telehealth?”
Technology and consumer demand are changing how and where healthcare is delivered. Telehealth is the “use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration,” according to the Health Resources Services Administration. Patients experience telehealth when they video conference with their provider instead of being seen in an office.
As healthcare consumerism evolves —driven by young consumers — patients want convenient access to care. Patients want access. They want technology that allows them to do more than schedule appointments, renew prescriptions, pay bills online and email their physicians. Physicians want to replicate the care they deliver at an in-person visit. As a result, telehealth is on the rise for providers and patients alike.
Patients prefer to see their own doctor virtually and will increasingly choose medical providers who offer virtual visit capabilities over those who don’t. Similarly, providers want to see their own patients virtually, get paid for it and want video visits to integrate with their practice management workflow and the electronic health record (EHR).
Patients prefer that their telehealth provider knows them.
More than half (56 percent) of respondents to a 2015 consumer survey felt it was important to have an established relationship with a telemedicine provider and even more (60 percent) felt it was important for a provider to have access to their health records.1 Patients who experience video visits with their own doctor have both.
Consumers increasingly choose medical providers who offer digital and virtual video visit capabilities
More than half of patients surveyed expect digital capabilities and confirmed it would influence their choice in providers, according to 2019 consumer study by Accenture.2,3 For example, 70 percent of patients surveyed are more likely to choose a provider that offers reminders for follow-up care via email or text and 49 percent are more likely to choose one that offers the ability to communicate with a doctor via video.2 And interest is growing; responses increased 13 percent compared to 2016.2 Not surprisingly, younger consumers are leading the trend.
Providers want to see their own patients virtually.
Last year, NextGen Healthcare surveyed our provider clients to determine how best to support their telehealth needs and learned that 56 percent — more than half — use or plan to use telehealth. 4 Of those, an overwhelming majority (90 percent) preferred virtual video visits with established patients.4 Examples of these scheduled virtual visits include:
- Follow-up visits for treatment compliance
- Reviewing labs or images
- Medication management and prescription refills
- Pre- and post-procedure visits
Integration with practice management workflow and EHR is the key for provider adoption and payment.
Our survey and subsequent focus groups demonstrated the importance of integration of the virtual visit in existing workflows and EHR. Providers are adding virtual visit functionality to their services and want the same processes for virtual visits as they have for in-person visits, including scheduling, reminders, documentation and insurance or patient payment processing. This is important for adoption by physicians in the practice and payment for services.
Just like non-traditional care models, telehealth is on the rise. Providers who embrace the power of virtual care are going to pass those who don’t. Providing technology that is easy to use and integrated into the provider’s EHR will empower easier access.
With the advent of technology and healthcare merging into telehealth, providers and patients alike will experience optimal service and optimal care, something that is important to all of us expecting to receive quality care, whether at home or on the road.
- Patient preferences for direct-to-consumer telemedicine services: a nationwide survey Brandon M. Welch, Jillian Harvey, Nathaniel S. O’Connell, James T. McElligott BMC Health Serv Res. 2017; 17: 784. Published online 2017 Nov 28 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5704580/
- Accenture 2019 Digital Health Consumer Survey https://www.accenture.com/us-en/insights/health/todays-consumers-reveal-future-healthcare
- Accenture 2018 Consumer Survey on Digital Health
- NextGen Healthcare Telehealth Voice of the Client Survey April 2018
- NextGen Focus Groups. Data on File.