Editor’s Note: This article was one in an ongoing series of CivicScience studies on telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic. For the latest research into telemedicine use, click here.
The rise of telemedicine has been one of the most exciting trends to watch during the coronavirus pandemic, with overall adoption rates more than tripling since February of this year (11% to 35%).
While it seems that telemedicine is clearly here to stay, CivicScience has found some caveats in its ongoing surveying of the remote healthcare trend.
For one, the rise of telemedicine has been tempered somewhat since May. Note the subtle flattening of the adoption curve (green line) in the chart below over the past two months:
This could be due to healthcare providers becoming more willing to schedule non-essential visits in recent months — though that trend itself could be in flux with coronavirus cases rising in many areas.
Quality of Care Comparisons
More than half of telemedicine adopters (52%) say the quality of care they received remotely was lower than what they would’ve received in person.
It’s understandable that few would choose to say the quality of telemedicine care is higher, considering it’s largely a phenomenon based on either necessity or convenience. But healthcare providers should be wary that many people ultimately consider telemedicine to be an inferior option in terms of quality.
More than half (58%) of those who said the quality of telemedicine care is lower than in-person care said they did not like the experience of telemedicine overall. On the other hand, the 42% who said that they liked telemedicine — despite the perceived lower quality of care — may be valuing convenience over quality.
Women and 35- to 54-year-old adults were more likely than others to say the quality of care they received remotely was the same or higher than what they would’ve received in person.
Overall favorability levels toward telemedicine among all U.S. adopters appear to have stabilized at around 68%, after falling steadily from a high of 73% at the start of the pandemic.
Frequency of Telemedicine Use
Most people (51%) who say they’ve used telemedicine over the past year have only done so once in that time frame. That said, 15% of all adopters say they’ve had at least four remote healthcare experiences.
Americans in households earning less than $50,000 per year were far more likely to have used telemedicine multiple times than those earning more.
While Americans have been quick to adopt telemedicine amid the coronavirus pandemic, concerns about quality of care seem to have made roughly one-quarter of overall adopters wary of the practice. Since very few people view telemedicine care as being of higher quality than traditional care, a large number of patients who adopted remote healthcare during the pandemic may begin to more seriously weigh convenience versus quality once they start feeling more comfortable with returning to doctors’ offices — whenever that may be.