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MDLIVE Institute National Telehealth Study Shows Changes in Healthcare Consumer Attitudes and Behaviors Since Start of Pandemic

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CHICAGO, Oct. 06, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — MDLIVE Institute, a division of MDLIVE, Inc. focused on the pursuit of accessible, affordable, effective Total Healthcare, today released the results of a new national study that shows changes in consumer attitudes toward telehealth and corresponding behaviors since the start of the pandemic. In line with the findings that include “the avoidance of contagion in waiting rooms” as one of the top drivers of use, Frost & Sullivan recently reported the “demand for telehealth will soar by 64.3% in the US in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts the practice of medicine and the delivery of healthcare.”1

“The pandemic turned the spotlight on the telehealth industry and its essential role in the delivery of high-quality care, that is both convenient and cost-effective, and importantly, without risk of contagion,” said Mindy Heintskill, Executive Director of MDLIVE Institute. “We expected consumer awareness to increase sharply because of media attention following the CDC’s recommendation that telehealth serve as the first line of defense in helping to slow the spread of COVID-19. At the same time, many health plans and employers reduced member co-pays for virtual care or eliminated them altogether. After seeing such a significant impact on our industry, we knew we had to initiate a second wave of research to learn and understand how the healthcare consumer mindset had changed.” 

The MDLIVE Institute’s Telehealth Attitudes and Usage Study of 2,400 household healthcare decision-makers in the U.S. was designed to gain insight into consumer behaviors and attitudes about telehealth. Specifically, the study focused on identifying drivers and barriers for utilization, understanding what conditions can be treated by telehealth, obtaining knowledge about options to access telehealth and the path to care, and demonstrating openness to telehealth use beyond urgent care, including for behavioral health and primary care services. 

The first wave of research was conducted in November-December 2019.2 Following the significant increase in telehealth awareness and utilization in the early part of the pandemic, a second wave was conducted in May-June 20201 to learn how consumer sentiment and other aspects changed. Participants in the online study were U.S. residents covered by health insurance with primary or shared healthcare decision-making authority in their households, and who had visited a doctor in the past 12 months. 

Summary of Study Findings

  • The awareness of telehealth and consumers’ intention to use it increased significantly over the study period. In the second wave, 71% of the respondents were aware of telehealth, up from 56% in the first wave. Furthermore, 68% of second-wave respondents expressed their intention to use telehealth in the future, up from 57% in the first wave.
  • Confirmation of the urgency of a medical issue (38%) replaced Gets me a diagnosis and treatment faster (31%) as the top driver for use in the second wave of the study. Avoidance of sick people in waiting rooms (33%) remained No. 2 on the list of top drivers.3
  • Concerns about accuracy of virtual diagnosis (32%) remained the top barrier to use in the second wave of the study, while I don’t know if my insurance covers (24%) rose to the second spot above Doctor familiarity (21%) and Quality (18%).3
  • Despite increased awareness and willingness to use telehealth, most consumers do not know where to go to access it. Many respondents (70%) indicated that they needed to research their telehealth options more thoroughly before selecting a virtual care provider, and consumers (63%) said they would most likely consult with their health plans for information about telehealth offerings.
  • Consumers are open to using telehealth for primary care services, including annual check-ups (62%), help managing chronic conditions (56%), specialist referrals (54%), and lab and diagnostic testing orders (52%). 

“These findings go well beyond the expected awareness metrics,” Heintskill said. “For example, the study also revealed the opportunity to educate consumers about the breadth of conditions that can be treated through telehealth. Fewer than half of all respondents thought telehealth was appropriate for some of our top treated conditions, such as sinusitis, sore throat, rash and urinary tract infections. These survey findings must inform product development, advancement of member engagement strategies and consumer messaging initiatives. And MDLIVE Institute will continue to conduct and publish consumer insights to support the progression of the healthcare industry to accessible, affordable care for everyone.”

Another interesting finding from the second wave of the study was that intention to use telehealth increased 14 percentage points among the 45+ age group compared to a nine-percentage-point increase among respondents age 18-44, closing what had been a gap between younger and older healthcare consumers. Heintskill notes that she isn’t surprised by this finding after seeing significant growth among all age segments during the pandemic.

A complete report of MDLIVE Institute’s study is available online at https://mdliveinstitute.org/white-papers-and-research. 

About MDLIVE

MDLIVE offers convenient, affordable and contagion-free virtual healthcare services to over 50 million members nationwide. Our network of board-certified physicians, dermatologists, psychiatrists and therapists are specially trained in virtual care and are committed to the highest quality treatment and the best possible patient experience.  We leverage technology and artificial intelligence to simplify and streamline, connecting providers and patients whenever and wherever it’s most convenient, often within just minutes.  To learn more about our expanding product suite and our partnerships with major health plans, hospital systems and employers, visit www.MDLIVE.com, download our app, or text “Sophie” to MDLIVE (635483) to register. 


1 https://ww2.frost.com/news/press-releases/telehealth-to-experience-massive-growth-with-covid-19-pandemic-says-frost-sullivan/

2 n= 1,200, age 18-64

3 Respondents could select more than one response to the following question: Please tell us what the top reasons are for you to use a telemedicine service for this type of medical care. Please select your three most important and your three least important.

David Schull
Russo Partners
(858) 717-2310
david.schull@russopartnersllc.com

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