Why Americans Are Interested in Telemedicine But Aren't Using It
Up to 77 percent of consumers are interested in telemedicine, yet fewer than 20 percent have actually done so. From the provider side, the main roadblock has been a lack of reimbursement for virtual care.
Fortunately, the passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018—coupled with expanded telehealth coverage in 2019 by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)—means that more virtual care options will be available to healthcare consumers this year. These measures are responsible for:
- Expanding stroke telemedicine coverage and telehealth-enabled home dialysis oversight
- Allowing Medicare Advantage plans to include telehealth services as a basic benefit
- Expanding the use of telehealth services in Accountable Care Organizations
Fatema Zanzi, a Partner at Manatt Health, notes, “One of the biggest issues to positively affect adoption of telehealth in 2019 is increased reimbursement available by Medicare. These changes are monumental given that CMS has been reluctant to pay for telemedicine in the past except in very limited circumstances.”
However, facilitating reimbursement for virtual care isn’t the only hurdle that healthcare providers need to overcome to boost the use of telehealth services.
Awareness & Trust Encourage Telehealth Adoption
Telemedicine covers a wide range of services, from phone calls and video chats to remote patient monitoring and store-and-forward imaging. But despite the anticipated growth of the global telehealth market to more than $36.3 billion by 2020, the number of healthcare consumers who have tried it remains dismally low.
Lack of awareness could be keeping the numbers down. In a recent Physician 360 article, Dr. Angela Fusaro wrote, “Unlike a hospital or urgent care center, you are not going to naturally encounter a telemedicine service in your everyday routine; it is a resource that must be discovered. And despite being in a culture of heavy internet and mobile application users, many still have no idea whether their provider or insurance carrier offers them access to virtual care.” Hence, healthcare providers need to effectively market their virtual services to increase patient acquisition.
Moreover, providers should address the wariness that patients feel toward telehealth. A nationwide study found that 75 percent of patients would not trust a diagnosis made from a virtual visit or would trust it less than an in-person diagnosis. The study’s author, Cameron Graham, notes, “If patients don’t trust the diagnoses made during telemedicine calls, they may ignore the advice given, fail to take preventative steps or seek additional in-person appointments, which defeats the point of telemedicine.”
To address this hesitation, start with healthcare consumers who have expressed an interest in virtual visits. But how do you identify these patients?
Psychographic Segmentation & Patient Acquisition
According to the Virtual Visits Consumer Choice Survey, over 70 percent of healthcare consumers would be willing to use telehealth services for:
- Prescription questions or refills
- Pre- and postoperative follow-ups
- Ongoing chronic disease management
- Weight loss or smoking cessation coaching
- Psychologist consultations
Interest, however, doesn’t always equal action. Healthcare providers also need to understand what makes some patients more likely to embrace virtual care than others.
The c2b psychographic segmentation model identifies healthcare consumers based on their motivations, priorities and preferences. In turn, providers learn where patients seek out health information and the main channels through which they communicate. Providers can then align their marketing efforts and services with different audience’s needs to drive engagement.
So, which segments are most likely to utilize virtual visits?
Self-Achievers are proactive when it comes to wellness and like to stay on top of their health goals. If they can’t meet with their doctor in-person, they’re likely to turn to telemedicine as an alternative to meet their goals.
Likewise, Willful Endurers are known for “living in the moment,” which can make them hard to motivate. However, 39 percent of Willful Endurers are Millennials, who are twice are likely to consider telemedicine than their older counterparts. Healthcare providers can market the convenience of virtual visits to Millennial Willful Endurers to overcome their tendency to avoid the doctor, except as a last resort.
Telemedicine has already proven its value for veterans and rural patients. Recent trends suggest it has the potential to improve access to healthcare, reduce costs, increase efficiency and generate revenue on a larger scale—if healthcare providers market it to the right patients, for the right reasons.
For more on psychographic segmentation and how it supports patient acquisition, download our whitepaper.