CivicScience | Telemedicine Keeps Growing – But Rural and Low-Income Americans Aren’t Happy With It

General, Healthcare, Technology

Telemedicine Keeps Growing – But Rural and Low-Income Americans Aren’t Happy With It

Image Credit: Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Telemedicine adoption in the U.S. ticked upward once again in December, following two months of stagnation. Nearly 4 in 10 American adults (39%) have now used remote healthcare services.

While adoption growth has slowed in recent months, it’s important to remember that the reach of telemedicine among U.S. adults has grown nearly five-fold over the past year, from 8% in December 2019 to 39% in December 2020. 

But even as more people have tried telemedicine, satisfaction with remote healthcare services has experienced a downward trend since the practice first exploded in popularity during the early days of the pandemic.

There is one clear, dividing line when it comes to satisfaction with telemedicine: a $100,000 annual household income. Two-thirds (67%) of those earning more than $100K per year were satisfied with telemedicine; only 51% of those who earn less than $100K per year said the same.

There are also stark differences in satisfaction with telemedicine services based on where a person lives. In the December survey, only 38% of rural Americans who’ve tried telemedicine said they liked it. That compares with 52% of urban Americans and a whopping 70% of suburban residents.

Older Women and Parents Are Using Telehealth the Most

Clearly, telemedicine isn’t for everyone, but it is definitely catching on among certain groups of people.

Parents were a hefty 42% more likely to have used telemedicine than non-parents, suggesting that pediatric telehealth is gaining steam.

And in the December survey, women were roughly 29% more likely than men to say they have tried telemedicine.

In terms of age, older adults were more likely than their younger counterparts to have tried telemedicine. This makes sense, as younger adults are often less likely to require regular medical checkups. Adoption and intent peaked among 35- to 54-year-olds.

Adults under age 35 were also much less likely to be satisfied with telemedicine (47% satisfaction) than adults age 35 and over (67% satisfaction). 

Finally, there’s no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has played a huge role in the rise of telemedicine. But interestingly, those who personally know someone who was diagnosed with COVID-19 were no more likely than others to have tried telemedicine. They were, however, much more likely to intend to try it.

As the telemedicine trend grows, it’s becoming increasingly clear which populations are embracing the new technology, and which are rejecting it. Rural, low-income, and younger Americans are simply much less interested in and satisfied with telehealth services than others. Meanwhile, middle-aged and older people — particularly parents — are receptive to the trend, and tend to be more satisfied with it than others once they’ve tried it.

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