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20% of consumers would swap doctors for one that offered telehealth services, American Well says

Interest was especially high among parents of children under age 18, caregivers of elderly or ill relatives, results showed.

Beth Jones Sanborn, Managing Editor

Physicians beware: If you don't offer telehealth services you may start losing patients to those that do. American Well, a telehealth company that partners with dozens of health systems nationwide, said according to the results of their 2017 Consumer Study, 20 percent of respondents would switch their primary care physician to another one in their area if they offered telehealth visits. That amounts to 50 million Americans, American Well said.

Harris Poll conducted two studies online on behalf of American Well in late 2016 to gauge consumer experiences with and perceptions of telehealth. The first was conducted in August among 2,100 adults ages 18 and older. The second was in September and involved 2007 adults 18 and older.

Results showed that among those with a primary care physician, 65 percent are interested in seeing that doctor via video. Parents of children younger than 18 were even more likely to express interest, with results showing 74 percent of that group saying they'd like to see their doctor via video.

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People ages 35 to 44 also showed significant interest in telehealth services, American Well said.

Also, 79 percent of consumers who are caring for an ill or aging relative say a multi-way video telehealth service would be helpful.

Finally, chronic condition management is another area where interest in telehealth is peaking. For those consumers willing to have an online telehealth visit, 60 percent would see a physician online for help managing a chronic illness. Boiling the numbers down, for adults ages 45 to 64 who are willing to engage telehealth technology, 67 percent would see a doctor online for help managing a chronic condition.

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"Consumers are willing to try telehealth for many needs – from chronic conditions to post-discharge follow-up," said Mary Modahl, chief marketing officer for American Well. "Health systems and provider groups must take note; if you haven't already, 2017 is the year to put a secure telehealth platform in place."

At his recent hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and pensions Committee, Trump HHS Secretary nominee Tom Price called telemedicine "absolutely vital" and said it will give those in rural and underserved areas better access to care. He said the ability to use it should be accentuated but said how to pay doctors for those services is a challenge.

[Also: Telehealth helping rural hospitals treat addiction patients]

"Oftentimes, telemedicine is not paid for, it's not compensated. People eat, the clinicians eat those costs. They assume those costs that help the patient but make it so it's much more difficult for them to be able to provide the quality care necessary," he said.

Twitter: @BethJSanborn

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