Americans are putting off important medical appointments during a pandemic

According to a survey conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Kaiser Permanente, face-to-face video visits were the most popular form of telehealth, with four in 10 respondents using this option, followed closely by telephone appointments (39%). Photo by Yilmaz Akin on Unsplash

Americans are putting off essential medical appointments, and it’s not just because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey.

In fact, more than three out of four respondents say they have delayed everything from annual physicals and blood pressure checks to urgent care for an illness or injury.

Sixty-one percent say that the time and effort it takes to visit a health care provider causes them to postpone getting the care they need, and 59% say that the cost of attending an in-person doctor’s appointment is what makes them delay.

Other reasons for postponing care include inconvenient appointment times (35%), the need to take time off work (29%) and the fear of being exposed to COVID-19 by other patients (17%).

But delaying care has a cost of its own: 67% of respondents say they feel worried about their health when they put off care.

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Kaiser Permanente, the survey of 2,000 Americans highlights how the use of telehealth, including video and telephone appointments, could help address the challenges many Americans face in getting to the doctor.

Fifty-four percent of respondents say telehealth is convenient, and 51% appreciate the travel time it saves them.

The survey also revealed increased demand for telehealth in the wake of COVID-19.

Ninety-eight percent of respondents reported using telehealth since the pandemic began, whether by emailing a physician, dialing into a phone appointment or having a video visit.

Face-to-face video visits were the most popular form of telehealth, with four in 10 respondents using this option, followed closely by telephone appointments (39%).

The COVID-19 pandemic has sped the adoption of telehealth options that allow people to receive safe, high-quality care from the comfort of their homes,” said Arthur M. Southam, MD, executive vice president of Health Plan Operations for Kaiser Permanente.Thesevirtual house calls’ are appropriate for a wide range of health concerns and appointment types, ensuring there’s no reason to delay needed care.”

Increased use of telehealth may be set to continue post-COVID-19, with 85% of respondents saying they’re likely to select telehealth for their next primary care appointment and 73% saying they’re likely to choose it for their next specialty care appointment in areas such as dermatology or women’s health.

Perhaps the most telling sign that telehealth is here to stay: more than 60% of respondents report that the availability of telehealth is a factor — and in many cases a major one — in picking a health plan, and nearly eight in 10 think that telehealth should be universally available as a health care option in the next five years.

Convenience and integration are key factors in Americans’ willingness to consider telehealth, with nearly three in four people saying they would be more likely to use telehealth if they knew their provider could order lab work, prescribe medications and make referrals to other doctors.

Eighty percent cited the ability to follow up with the provider directly as being important to them in deciding whether to use telehealth.

And 70% said that they’d be more likely to choose telehealth if they knew the provider would have access to their full health history.

“Today’s health care consumers expect and deserve to receive care in a way that’s flexible, convenient, and reflects their needs and preferences,” said Dr. Southam. “It’s the health care industry’s obligation to meet those expectations by providing a fully integrated experience — one that enhances patients’ experiences, improves their health outcomes, and expands their access to high-quality care.”

TOP BENEFITS OF TELEHEALTH, ACCORDING TO RESPONDENTS

  1. Convenience (54%)
  2. Travel time saved (51%)

3. Scheduling flexibility (46%)

4. Less contact with sick people (45%)

5. Money saved (42%)

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