5 Trends Pointing to Telehealth as a Supplement to In-Person Health Care

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(Family Features) Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, where and how adults in the United States seek and receive health care has evolved. Telehealth went from a novelty to a necessity, and now Americans expect more choices and connection in their health care experiences whether in-person or online.

Data points to a preference (with the exception of mental health care) for in-person care and the use of telehealth as one part of the overall continuity of care. This and more was discovered as part of “The Healthcare Experience: 2022,” a comprehensive report that includes data from patient and provider surveys and an analysis of appointment booking trends from May 2020-May 2022. Conducted by Zocdoc, a digital health care marketplace where people can find and book in-person or virtual health care appointments across more than 200 specialties and 12,000 insurance plans, the report also uncovered these trends:

Telehealth Has Not Replaced In-Person Care
Prior to the pandemic, telehealth represented approximately 1% of care, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. However, amid stay-at-home orders and concerns about contracting COVID-19, many Americans turned to telehealth to safely get the care they needed with 33% of appointments booked conducted via telehealth in May 2020. By May 2022, that number declined to 17%, and excluding mental health, just 9% of appointments were attended virtually. This signals a return to in-person care as Americans adapt to a new normal; in fact, 77% of patient survey respondents indicated they will utilize a combination of telehealth and in-person care in the future.

Mental Health Appointments Remain Primarily Virtual
Mental health is the only specialtywhere there are more virtual bookings now than during the early months of the pandemic. In May 2020, 74% of mental health bookings were virtual. That number rose to 85% in May 2021 and 87% in May 2022. Patients surveyed noted convenience, the comforts of home and a perception of increased intimacy as reasons for virtual visits with mental health providers.

Telehealth Still Has Some Problems to Work Out
Highlighting some of the issues providers have experienced with online appointments, 37% of providers said it was “more difficult” or “much more difficult” to build a relationship with patients via telehealth versus in-person and 58% indicated it was harder to examine patients virtually. Additionally, 58% of providers indicated connectivity issues or trouble with technology negatively impacted their delivery of virtual care.

Patients are Still Catching Up on Care
Since the onset of the pandemic, many Americans delayed or canceled health care appointments. In fact, 63% of patients said they put off preventive care during the early stages of the pandemic and 24% said they have not yet caught up on scheduling those appointments. However, 39% of patients have either caught up or made progress on catching up on preventative care.

Offline Factors Impact Online Care
With 81% of Americans using some form of video calling and conferencing during the pandemic, according to data from Pew Research Center, people have gotten used to distractions and interruptions during these interactions. However, the circumstances of a virtual visit can make it harder to deliver or receive care with providers reporting seeing a patient’s pet (36%), seeing a patient’s family member or roommate (31%) or seeing patients outside their homes (42%) during telehealth appointments.

For more information and to view the full report, visit zocdoc.com.

Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock

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