Telehealth Adoption Grows, but Hurdles Remain

The expansion in interest now is happening as broadband speed improves and smartphones become near-ubiquitous, a Xerox survey found.

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Although 61 percent of U.S. adults are willing to receive non-urgent health care advice, exams or counseling in a virtual setting, just 16 percent have used virtual health, according to a Xerox survey of 2,033 U.S. adults ages 18 and older.

According to the research, 77 percent are excited about the possibility of receiving health care virtually.

Convenience was cited as the top benefit (59 percent), followed by potential cost savings (40 percent), and the ability to see or communicate with health care professionals for minor ailments and the option to easily refill prescriptions—both at 35 percent.

"I was surprised that only 16 percent of those surveyed have received virtual health care," Tamara StClaire, chief innovation officer for Xerox Healthcare Business Group, told eWEEK. "The American Telemedicine Association has hosted an annual conference for 21 years, so this idea of receiving care outside of a physical health care setting clearly is not brand new."

StClaire noted that the expansion in interest now, though, is happening as broadband speed improves and smartphones become near-ubiquitous."Seventy-seven percent of those surveyed told us they're looking forward to virtual health care," she said. "It shows that people have come to expect an anytime, anywhere paradigm—the same type of experience they enjoy in other industries, like retail, travel or banking. We're clearly on the edge of a major expansion in virtual care, and with consumer demand rising, it's time for the industry to pay attention."

She pointed out, however, that regulations and reimbursement are still major challenges, but said as more states make it financially feasible for health care providers to offer more convenient care to patients, adoption will improve.

"The health care industry has been slow to adopt the use of application programming interfaces [APIs], but a lot of progress is being made there that will improve the patient experience and access to care," StClaire said. "In a nutshell, APIs in health care will facilitate free information exchange between payers and providers in real time."

The survey also revealed the top things people are concerned about when receiving virtual health care for non-urgent matters: fears that insurance won't cover it (43 percent) and that user data and information won't be secure (37 percent).

Among the other top concerns are fears that patients won't have the same personal relationship with their providers (35 percent); connection issues, such as Internet, WiFi and phone (34 percent); and worries they won't have access to their regular physicians (30 percent).