The Impact of Telemedicine on Patient Experience | Binary Fountain

May 19, 2020

The Impact of Telemedicine on Patient Experience

By: Kieran McQuilkin

telemedicine-patient-experienceAs telemedicine takes center stage in the wake of COVID-19, healthcare organizations need to understand and adjust to its impact on patient experience.

New questions about the technology’s effects on patient satisfaction are arising as both patients and providers adjust to a new normal, including one key inquiry:

How will the rise of telehealth visits impact patient experience for healthcare consumers and caregivers?

In short, on-demand, virtual care is a powerful tool for those in charge of improving patient satisfaction. Consumers across specialties are rating telemedicine as equal to or better than in-person consultations.

In this article, you will learn which top factors are influencing the perception of telemedicine, the main patient care experience benefits derived from virtual services, and the impact of telemedicine on care quality.

Convenience and Time Savings from Telemedicine

Convenience, time savings, access to care and financial savings are the most frequently cited reasons for patients’ preference for telemedicine. Highlighting those benefits, and easing concerns about facetime and technological issues, are key to improving patient experience for virtual visits.

Telemedicine allows patients to bypass travel and waiting room experiences — major sources of negative feedback – giving their interactions with providers a higher baseline level of satisfaction. That benefit of convenience is reflected in several studies of telehealth.

2019 study of the telemedicine impact on patient experience found improvements in all the domains recommended by the National Quality Forum: access (time spent in evaluation), experience (patient satisfaction) and effectiveness (case cancellation rate). The telemedicine group spent less time in pre-admission testing (PAT) by an average of 24 minutes and had no cancellations, while several of the in-person visits were cancelled.

Telemedicine shines when it comes to follow-up consultations. In a study by Massachusetts General Hospital, clinicians said telehealth was instrumental in offering convenient and timely follow-up visits. Seventy percent said the technology helped them see patients in a timely manner and 50% said telehealth was efficient.

Due to convenience and time savings, the consumer appreciation for virtual visits is also reflected in a telemedicine study of radiation oncology patients. Most patients preferred virtual visits for future consultations, about one-third desired a mix of telemedicine and in-person visits, and only one patient preferred in-person visits only.

Access to Virtual Care and Financial Savings

Payers and providers are starting to realize how much telemedicine can help control costs, as well.

The lack of access to care negatively affects patient engagement and follow-through, according to research from telehealth provider Teladoc. In many cases, prompt and accessible health services help avoid the need for more complex and expensive treatment.

Patients seeking treatment via telemedicine encounter fewer barriers to prompt care delivery, which in turn leads to better outcomes and higher patient satisfaction.

In the Massachusetts General Hospital study, 79% of patients said it was easier to schedule an appointment for a virtual follow-up visit than for a clinic visit, and 66% said they had strong personal connections to their telemedicine provider. Patients perceived significant added convenience, saved travel time, and expressed willingness to pay co-payments for this visit option.

Particularly in rural areas, the time saved commuting to care centers is highly valuable. According to a Harvard Medical School study, patients spend an average of $43 in lost time for a typical doctor’s appointment – a cost they will appreciate being alleviated by virtual services.

How Telemedicine Impacts Quality of Care

According to Texas State University research, the factors listed most often connecting telehealth to patient satisfaction were improved outcomes (20%), preferred modality (10%), ease of use (9%), low cost (8%), improved communication (8%), and decreased travel time (7%).

And those factors are so far receiving high marks: 95% of patients report being satisfied with their telehealth experience, according to eVisit. A 2019 study concerning PAT echoes that statistic, finding that using telemedicine for PAT had benefits in terms of access, patient experience and effectiveness for both patients and providers.

webinar-covid-19-telemedicineWhen comparing virtual visits and office visits, MGH found that many patients and clinicians reported no difference in “the overall quality of the visit.” It additionally found that:

  • 62% said the quality of care via telehealth was the same as an in-person visit
  • 21% said the quality of care via telehealth was better than an in-person visit
  •  68% rated their visit a nine or a 10 on a 10-point satisfaction scale

Note that when a patient rated lower than a nine, according to the study, it was usually due to a technical difficulty that MGH said was resolved before the visit was completed.

These are just small samplings of the many types of care primed to take advantage of telemedicine services, like pregnancy, rehabilitation and chronic conditions. With so many care factors benefiting from the technology, your healthcare organization can confidently prepare to use virtual services to boost patient experience for the long term.

For more on how to market telemedicine, browse these related posts:

About the Author

Kieran McQuilkin
Content Marketing Specialist

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