June 30, 2021

Is increased use of telehealth here to stay?

Phone and video visits were slow to catch on before the coronavirus pandemic, but many people now appreciate their ease and convenience, a survey says.

Elizabeth Faith Chiment had always been skeptical about telehealth.

“I’m very much a people person,” she said.

But when she needed a checkup in late 2020 at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, her doctor scheduled a video visit for the 64-year-old, who has an autoimmune disease.

“As soon as I saw my doctor’s face and heard his voice, it was wonderful,” she said. “He was able to see where I lived and see my dog, getting a better sense of who I am.”

A Kaiser Permanente member, Chiment is one of many people in the United States who turned to telehealth out of necessity during the pandemic but now plan to make it a regular part of their health care.

In fact, in a survey of 2,000 Americans, conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Kaiser Permanente in late 2020, 85% of respondents said they were likely to select telehealth for their next primary care appointment, and 73% said they were likely to choose it for their next specialty care appointment in areas such as dermatology.

Convenience and reduced travel time topped the list of telehealth benefits noted by respondents. They also pointed to advantages such as scheduling flexibility, reduced contact with sick people, and saving money on transportation and childcare.

As soon as I saw my doctor’s face and heard his voice, it was wonderful. He was able to see where I lived and see my dog, getting a better sense of who I am.

A seamless experience

A connected care experience is a key factor in Americans’ willingness to consider telehealth, according to the survey.

Nearly 3 in 4 people said they would be more likely to use telehealth if they knew their doctor could order lab work, prescribe medications, and make referrals to other doctors. More than 74% identified the ability to follow up with a doctor directly as being important to them, 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.

Flexibility and personal choice are also essential, with more than 75% of respondents saying the ability to switch back and forth between in-person care and telehealth is important to them.

While the survey did not target Kaiser Permanente members, these responses reinforce the value of integration and giving patients options for how to seek care — both central to Kaiser Permanente’s model.

“Today’s health care consumers expect and deserve to receive care in a way that’s flexible and convenient, and reflects their needs and preferences,” said Arthur M. Southam, MD, executive vice president of health plan operations for Kaiser Permanente. “It’s the health care industry’s obligation to meet those expectations by providing a fully integrated experience.”

Learn how telehealth has transformed cancer care at Kaiser Permanente.