Maybe you wake up with a sore throat – the bad kind, when it hurts the most when you swallow. Or maybe your kid came home from preschool with what is very clearly pink eye. Or perhaps you’re unlucky enough to get the flu and are in desperate need of antivirals.
Clearly, for all of these ailments, it’s time to see a doctor. That means getting an appointment and sitting in a waiting room with a who’s-who and what’s-what of other illnesses, never mind the time spent in the entire endeavor.
Today, the waiting around while trying to avoid OPP (other people’s pathogens) does not necessarily have to be the case. Telemedicine is on the rise, according to a Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) paper, and a recent CivicScience study found that 14% of U.S. adults are interested in trying telemedicine, with another 7% having already tried it and liked it, compared with only 3% of Americans who have tried it and not liked it.
Millennials and Gen Xers are the biggest adopters of telemedicine so far, as well as the most likely to have plans to try it. Of those who have tried it, women are more likely to have tried it (59%) compared to men (41%).
Somewhat unsurprisingly, people who self-identify as following trends in healthcare absolutely love the idea of telemedicine. In all, a large majority of people who have either tried or will try telemedicine also follow medical trends “very closely”.
On the flip side, people who don’t follow the trends at all are, as of now, highly unlikely to use their smartphone as a conduit to a diagnosis.
Two of the great benefits of telemedicine are time and cost, both of which are routinely less than a standard doctor’s appointment.
As a result, people who needed to see a doctor in the last 12 months but chose not to because of cost involved were much more receptive to telemedicine. Thirteen percent of that group reported that they tried it, nearly double compared to people who could always afford a trip to the doctor.
When it comes to time, people who have to commute to work are more likely to prefer the idea of telemedicine. Commuters are more willing to try it in the future, compared to non-commuters.
Additionally, city dwellers were both more likely to have tried and are more willing to try telemedicine, compared to people who live in rural areas. It would certainly appear rural America isn’t ready to give up the idea of their country doctor.
Here’s an interesting blip in the data: When it comes to overall satisfaction with their health care over the last 12 months, there was little difference in whether people tried telemedicine. Roughly 11% of American adults who were happy with their health care tried telemedicine, and … roughly 11% of American adults who were unhappy with their health care tried telemedicine. But 17% of “very satisfied” health care users said they plan to give telemedicine a whirl, compared with only 11% of people who were “not at all satisfied.”
Furthermore, people who were “very satisfied” with their health care are very cognizant of telemedicine, with only 16% of them never hearing of it, compared to 35% of unsatisfied health care consumers who are unacquainted with the concept of telemedicine.
In the end, though, it all might come down to tech.
While telemedicine is decidedly low-tech – after all, it’s basically talking to someone on the phone – there is an element of “Jetsons”-esque behavior to it. It feels high-tech, very futuristic. Telemedicine feels, really, like an app. Something that shortcuts things for you, something that provides a smoother, quicker experience.
As such, the chart below shows that those who have tried or plan to try telemedicine services place higher importance on apps than those who are not interested or have never heard of them.
Obviously, telemedicine is not going to completely replace going to the doctor. Broken arms and cancer screenings and physical therapy don’t exactly lend themselves to a quick chat over the phone.
But with health care costs always on the rise, and especially for people looking to save a buck (and some time), there seems to be little doubt telemedicine – at least for easily diagnosable and treatable issues – will continue to gain fans.