Virtual healthcare: Consumer interest outpaces physician adoption

According to a Deloitte survey, while consumer interest in virtual healthcare is on the rise, physicians are struggling to keep up.
15 August 2018

Is the health care industry fulfilling consumer interest in virtual services? Source: Shutterstock

Virtual healthcare is on the rise across the US

In a nutshell, virtual healthcare allows you to “see” a doctor in minutes via your mobile phone or computer and typically functions as a walk-in clinic.

It’s essentially the Uber of healthcare- while you won’t see your regular family doctor, you’ll be connected with an available doctor who is employed by the service provider at the time of your request.

This innovation is revolutionizing to the healthcare industry, creating a system which is much more efficient and convenient.

Access to health care can often be a stressful ordeal. Picking up the phone first thing in the morning and waiting on hold for what seems like an eternity to book an appointment. Having to book an entire afternoon off work just to renew a prescription, and having to force yourself out of bed when feeling utterly awful.

Virtual healthcare solves many of these issues, significantly benefitting patients, doctors, employers, and the entire healthcare system in general.

Consumers show a keen interest in virtual care

It seems that consumer interest in virtual care is steadily increasing, according to a recent survey of 4,530 US healthcare consumers and 624 physicians by Deloitte Insights.

The survey found that 23 percent of respondents from the survey have had a virtual visit with a doctor or nurse, and 57 percent of those who have not yet used virtual visits are willing to try.

Virtual health care is appealing to many consumers. Source: Shutterstock

The predominant reasons consumers chose not to opt for a virtual healthcare visit included:

  • Loss of personal connection with their doctor (28 percent)
  • Concerns regarding quality of care (28 percent)
  • Issues with access (24 percent)

On top of increasing interest in virtual care, half of the respondents reported embracing wearables and other technologies to track their health. And of these, 53 percent say they shared this information with their doctor.

Are physicians keeping up with the consumer interest in virtual care?

Despite the interest and support of virtual care from consumers, the Deloitte survey suggests that doctors aren’t meeting the demand.

Of the physicians who took part in the survey, just 14 percent have implemented the technology for virtual visits.

It seems the top physician concerns regarding virtual care technologies are:

  • Medical errors (36 percent)
  • Access to technology (35 percent)
  • Data security (33 percent)

And despite the rising consumer interest in health-tracking wearables and other technologies, it seems the ability for doctors to use this patient-generated data is lagging.

Only 9 percent of doctors have implemented technology for remote monitoring and for the integration of data from wearables. However, 27 percent of the remaining doctors reported plans to add this capability in the next one to two years.

Both consumers and physicians agree on the potential benefits

Despite the apparent gap in consumer interest and the availability of virtual care, it is clear that both parties can agree on the benefits of improved access and greater convenience.

For consumers, virtual care tools were used because:

  • The virtual visit had more convenient hours (33 percent)
  • Not feeling well enough to leave the house (25 percent)
  • Closest doctor’s office is far from home or work (25 percent)

For physicians:

  • Improved access to care (66 percent)
  • Improved patient satisfaction (52 percent)
  • Ability to stay connected with patients and their caregivers (45 percent)

For physicians, virtual care offers an opportunity to retain and grow their patient base and take steps towards delivering patient-centric care.

However before the healthcare system can truly unlock the benefits of the technology, some benefits but first be addressed.

This includes adoption challenges regarding cost. Virtual care technology is, at current, pretty expensive for physicians. Furthermore, reimbursement and licensing can be complicated and not favorable to physicians.

The traditional model of care is becoming increasingly unsustainable in the U.S. due to ever-increasing health care costs, shortage of physicians, and an aging population. It’s clear that in the future we can expect to see the further rise of digital technologies to help address this problem.