Patients Prefer To See Their Own Provider Through Telemedicine

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In a recent survey of 4345 respondents, patients prefer to use telemedicine with their own doctor with whom they have an established relationship.

Telemedicine is medical care delivered from the distance that is bound to bring patients closer to their healthcare providers. Real-time telemedicine can reduce the costs of medical care without compromising on the quality and patient satisfaction.

There are two kinds of real-time telemedicine, first is between the two clinic or medical institutions, and secondly is direct to consumer (DTC). DTC has several benefits over the traditional model of healthcare like lower costs and better accessibility. Nowadays, almost everyone is using network-enabled devices, which means that due to DTC telemedicine, medical care is just a few clicks away. However, things are not that simple as it may sound since most people continue to prefer the traditional ways of getting the medical advice. Perhaps because technology still lacks that human touch, trust, and satisfaction provided by the face to face consultations.
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There are three types of DTC telemedicine. First is the DTC telemedicine service provided by the healthcare provider with whom a person has a long-standing relationship. The second kind of DTC service is provided by another healthcare provider, but belonging to the same healthcare institution that a patient is attached to. Finally, the third form of DTC telemedicine is a service provided by a new healthcare provider belonging to institute unknown to a person.

First two types of DTC telemedicine certainly have some benefit over the third form, as the older medical records of the patient are readily available to the healthcare provider. In the third case, both the organization and healthcare provider is new to the patient. But the importance of the third type cannot be underestimated by keeping in mind the fact that many DTC telemedicine organization companies are providing services at a lower price, and they are available to anyone from anywhere.

Survey to find out preferences of patients

To understand the choices of patients Welch et al. came up with an online survey that consisted of seventeen questions reviewed by health policy experts from the Medical University of South Carolina. They used the online platform SurveyMonkey for their research. Apart from issues regarding preference for specific type of DTC telemedicine, the survey contained questions regarding their health status, age, gender, ethnicity, and education level. Participants were chosen in a way to match the adult population in the US.
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What did the research show?

There was almost equal participation by both the genders, and 78% of the selected respondents were white, while rest form other minorities. Results of the survey were extracted from the 4438 randomly chosen participants. Out of all the respondents, 84% percent reported that they have a current primary health care provider, and 39% said that they have been going to their current care provider for more than five years. Half of the participant also reported seeing the primary care provider at least once during the period of one year.

Data from the survey showed that only 5.3% of those having a current primary care provider were aware that their primary care provider could provide them with an online video visit, while 31% said that they were unsure about it. Out of all the respondents, only 3.5% have ever used the telemedicine services, although the percentage was little higher for those not having a current primary care provider, with 4.6% having used such services.

How about willingness to use telemedicine?

Results of research by Welch et al. showed that about half the participants (51.9%) were willing to see their current primary care provider through telemedicine, whereas a quarter were unwilling, and the rest were unsure about it.

On the question of seeing another primary health care provider from the same organization, this number was reduced to 34.9% and 36.7% were unwilling to see another primary healthcare provider even from the same organization.

Participants were least ready to see the different primary health care provider from a different organization with only 18.6% being willing, while 51% were unwilling to do it.
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Kind of telemedicine services preferred by patients

Hence the research showed that people were more willing to use DTC telemedicine if they knew and trusted the primary care provider, however, if the primary care provider was from another organization or not known to them, they were reluctant to use DTC telemedicine services.

If we consider the results from this research, the majority of people are still hesitant to give telemedicine a try. Forty-one percent of the respondents felt that they do not feel a need of telemedicine services to be provided by their current primary health care provider, comparatively just half of the number felt such need (19.8%).

Although it is important to note that about 15% confirmed that they would readily switch to a primary health care provider who provided the option of telemedicine, which is quite a relevant number considering that DTC telemedicine is still in infancy.

Thus what we see is that most people would love to see some kind of telemedicine services being offered, especially if they have been using the services of their current primary care provider for some time. People are still reluctant to start using telemedicine services if both the primary healthcare provider and organization is new to them, although it is something that may change in the future.

As with any study, we need to understand the limitations of this study, most participants in the study were those who are comparatively more active online. Further, it should be noted that this research does not show the trend, in future people would be more willing to see healthcare providers virtually. Such pattern would be fueled by many factors, like technology making telemedicine more realistic and improvement in network-enabled diagnostic devices to mention the few.

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Courtney Larson

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