Connectivity takes telehealth from a nice-to-have to a must-have

Survey shows how the healthcare industry is evolving with digital experiences in the post-pandemic world, with providers needing to offer telehealth options that ensure the experience is easy, intuitive and enjoyable

A study from digital quality technology provider Applause has revealed a huge uptick in the take-up of telehealth services due to the Covid-19 outbreak, with almost two-thirds of a sample of 5,000 people saying that they plan to increase telehealth usage in the post-pandemic environment.

Recognising that telehealth was not in itself new, Applause stressed that advances in video meeting apps, smartphone availability and broadband access are enabling more use cases. It said that in 2020, many of those use cases included delivering expanded types of care digitally, driven by the pandemic, and the results from its survey show that telehealth is quickly gaining traction and has staying power.

The survey found that nearly half (46%) of respondents had used telehealth services at least once – 84% using it as a way to avoid in-person activities during the pandemic. Applause said the good news for telehealth providers was that a large majority of respondents to its survey – 63% – said they planned to use telehealth more than they did before the pandemic. Also, more than three-quarters (77%) of patients said they enjoyed using telehealth, despite the fact that 48% said there were things they could not do via the telehealth service that they would like to have done.

The bottom line was that Covid has introduced a large population of patients to what telehealth can be and they want to see more services made available digitally.

While telehealth is on the rise globally, the survey showed that respondents in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) lagged behind others in their use of such services. About half of respondents in the Americas (51%) and APAC (49%) had already used telehealth services, while only about one-third (37%) of those in EMEA had done the same.

The survey showed that the biggest barrier to telehealth adoption across all regions was network access and availability. Among the 54% of respondents who had not used telehealth services, 46% said this option was unavailable to them, 39% said they preferred to see their doctor in person and 8% said they had had no need to consult with a doctor recently.

“We continue to see exceptional digital experiences be the key differentiator for brands across all industries, and healthcare is no exception,” said Luke Damian, chief growth officer at Applause. “Telehealth is fast moving from a nice-to-have to a must-have service. Not only will healthcare providers need to offer telehealth options, they must ensure the experience itself is easy, intuitive and enjoyable to use.”

Applause also pointed to the fact that other research firms and analysts had made similar conclusions about telehealth accelerating rapidly. In its Product leader insight: guide to the 2021 healthcare provider CIO survey, analyst Gartner observed: “While the pandemic delayed some technology investments, other investments, like virtual care, were dramatically accelerated. Indeed, telehealth remains the most common technology investment area for 2021.” 

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