Majority of Americans Ready to Consider Virtual Healthcare Visits, But Concerns Do Exist

New York , N.Y. – November 19, 2014 – The doctor will see you now. Perhaps that phrase sounds familiar. Maybe it brings to mind visits to your doctor when you were a child, or from your checkup just last week. But how would you feel about that message coming to you by way of an onscreen prompt? New and emerging options for healthcare services are being offered online, including interactions with doctors and other healthcare providers through personal computers, smartphone and tablet apps, and other means. Such interactions are often referred to as virtual visits, and according to newly released data from The Harris Poll, Americans seem ready to consider making use of it – under the right conditions.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,537 U.S. adults surveyed online between August 13 and 18, 2014.

Nearly eight in ten Americans (78%) would consider seeing a healthcare professional virtually for at least one healthcare need, though not all needs seem to transition equally to this method. Nearly half (47%) would see a healthcare professional virtually to discuss the effectiveness of regularly used prescriptions, while roughly four in ten each would do so to diagnose cold or flu-like symptoms (43%) or for a consultation regarding allergies (39%).

Moving down the list of options, just over a third would consider opting to have a general wellness visit, regular checkup or preventative services (36%) or a regular checkup regarding regularly monitored biometrics (35%) virtually. Meanwhile just under a third would consider doing so to diagnose a rash (32%) or for one-time screening or lab services, such as blood sugar testing (30%). Roughly a fourth would consider this avenue for a regular checkup regarding a chronic condition (27%), to discuss a more urgent need regarding a chronic condition (26%), or to discuss treatment options of a sensitive nature (24%).

Americans are least likely to consider this a viable alternative for discussing treatment options for a life-threatening condition (18%), or for psychological or psychiatric consultations (with 22% saying they’d consider doing either a one-time or regular session virtually).

Age before beauty?

There tends to be an expectation that technological adoption rates are generally stronger among younger Americans than among their elders. This does ring true for many healthcare needs, with matures less likely than any other generation to say they’d consider either discussing treatment options of a sensitive nature (27% Millennials, 25% Gen Xers, 24% Baby Boomers and 12% Matures) or receiving psychological or psychiatric aid, whether in the form of a regular session (29%, 23%, 19% and 10%, respectively) or a one-time consultation (29%, 21%, 21% and 8%, respectively).

However, the inverse is true for some services as well. Matures (57%) and Baby Boomers (52%) are more likely than Gen Xers (44%) or Millennials (42%) to say they’d consider discussing the effectiveness of regularly used prescriptions virtually, along with being more likely than Millennials to consider this option for one-time screening or lab services, such as blood sugar testing (34% each Matures and Baby Boomers vs. 25% Millennials).

Not with just any doctor – and not for just any patient

Seven in ten Americans (70%) would be comfortable with a virtual checkup if it was with their own doctor or healthcare professional, while only about half as many (36%) would be comfortable having a virtual checkup with a doctor or healthcare professional they have not met in person. Meanwhile, only three in ten Americans (31%) could consider letting their child see a healthcare professional virtually; this increases to just over four in ten (42%) among those who currently live in households with children.

  • Younger Americans appear more comfortable with both virtual consultations with a doctor or healthcare professional they’ve not met in person (42% Millennials, 40% Gen Xers, 31% Baby Boomers, 21% Matures) and letting their child see a healthcare provider virtually (37%, 36%, 28% and 17%, respectively).

Benefits and concerns

Nearly three-fourths of Americans (73%) believe that virtually monitoring or checking up on chronic conditions could help reduce hospital readmission rates; however, nearly two-thirds (65%) indicate that they’d have less faith in a diagnosis from a virtual consultation than an in-person one.

  • Diagnosis concerns are strongest among Matures, who are more likely than any other generation to say they’d have reduced faith in a virtual diagnosis (77% Matures vs. 63% each for Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials).

What’s more, majorities of Americans believe virtual healthcare consultations could make it easier for both healthcare practitioners (67%) and consumers (62%) to commit insurance fraud.

The question of cost

Americans seem to have an expectation that virtual consultations represent an opportunity to cut cost, with only 36% feeling doctors should be compensated the same amount for virtual appointments as for in-person ones; fewer still (28%) feel patients should be charged the same amount for virtual appointments as for in-person ones.

 

TABLE 1a

SERVICES FOR WHICH YOU’D CONSIDER SEEING A HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL VIRTUALLY

By Generation & Gender

New options for health care services (sometimes referred to as virtual visits) are starting to be available online, including interacting with doctors and other healthcare providers through personal computers, smartphone and tablet apps, and other means. In general, which of the following healthcare needs would you consider seeing a healthcare professional ‘virtually’ in order to address? Please select all that apply.

Base: U.S. Adults

 

Total

Generation

Gender

Millennials (18-37)

Gen Xers (38-49)

Baby Boomers (50-68)

Matures (69+)

Male

Female

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Any (NET)

78

81

74

77

77

78

77

To discuss effectiveness of regularly used prescriptions

47

42

44

52

57

47

48

To diagnose cold or flu-like symptoms

43

42

39

47

44

43

44

For a consultation regarding allergies

39

37

38

43

38

39

40

For a general wellness visit, regular checkup or preventative services

36

36

32

39

35

38

35

For a regular checkup regarding regularly monitored biometrics (e.g., cholesterol, blood pressure)

35

33

33

39

36

37

34

To diagnose a rash

32

31

30

35

33

30

34

For one-time screening or lab services, such as blood sugar testing

30

25

31

34

34

31

30

For a regular checkup regarding a chronic condition (e.g., diabetes, asthma)

27

28

24

29

23

28

26

To discuss a more urgent need regarding a chronic condition (e.g., asthma flare-up; can’t get blood sugar down)

26

23

24

30

27

24

27

To discuss treatment options of a sensitive nature (e.g., sexual function, fertility)

24

27

25

24

12

28

20

For a regular (e.g., weekly, monthly) psychological or psychiatric session

22

29

23

19

10

20

24

For a one-time psychological or psychiatric consultation

22

29

21

21

8

21

23

To discuss treatment options for a life-threatening condition

18

18

15

21

19

18

18

Something else

9

10

8

9

6

10

7

None

22

19

26

23

23

22

23

 


TABLE 1b

SERVICES FOR WHICH YOU’D CONSIDER SEEING A HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL VIRTUALLY

By Chronic or Long Lasting Conditions

New options for health care services (sometimes referred to as virtual visits) are starting to be available online, including interacting with doctors and other healthcare providers through personal computers, smartphone and tablet apps, and other means. In general, which of the following healthcare needs would you consider seeing a healthcare professional ‘virtually’ in order to address? Please select all that apply.

Base: U.S. Adults

 

Total

Chronic or Long Lasting Conditions

Any (NET)

Any physical (NET)

Depression

None

%

%

%

%

%

Any (NET)

78

82

83

84

69

To discuss effectiveness of regularly used prescriptions

47

53

53

57

37

To diagnose cold or flu-like symptoms

43

47

48

46

36

For a consultation regarding allergies

39

44

44

49

31

For a general wellness visit, regular checkup or preventative services

36

39

40

44

30

For a regular checkup regarding regularly monitored biometrics (e.g., cholesterol, blood pressure)

35

38

38

41

31

To diagnose a rash

32

36

36

41

26

For one-time screening or lab services, such as blood sugar testing

30

33

34

38

25

For a regular checkup regarding a chronic condition (e.g., diabetes, asthma)

27

30

31

34

20

To discuss a more urgent need regarding a chronic condition (e.g., asthma flare-up; can’t get blood sugar down)

26

30

30

38

19

To discuss treatment options of a sensitive nature (e.g., sexual function, fertility)

24

26

26

32

20

For a regular (e.g., weekly, monthly) psychological or psychiatric session

22

24

24

40

19

For a one-time psychological or psychiatric consultation

22

23

24

36

19

To discuss treatment options for a life-threatening condition

18

19

20

23

17

Something else

9

9

9

15

7

None

22

18

17

16

31

 


TABLE 2a

FEELINGS TOWARD VIRTUAL HEALTHCARE VISITS

Summary Grid

How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

Base: U.S. Adults

AGREE (NET)

Strongly Agree

Somewhat agree

DISAGREE (NET)

Somewhat disagree

Strongly disagree

Not applicable

Virtually monitoring or checking up on chronic conditions could help reduce hospital readmission rates (i.e., someone having to go back into the hospital after being discharged).

%

73

25

48

20

12

9

6

I would be comfortable with a virtual checkup if it was with my own doctor or healthcare professional.

%

70

31

39

25

13

12

5

Virtual consultations could make it easier for health care practitioners to commit insurance fraud.

%

67

24

42

25

17

8

9

I would have less faith in a diagnosis from a virtual consultation than from an in-person one.

%

65

28

37

29

21

8

6

Virtual consultations could make it easier for consumers to commit insurance fraud.

%

62

23

39

29

20

8

9

Doctors should be compensated the same amount for virtual appointments as for in-person ones.

%

36

10

26

58

34

24

6

I would be comfortable with a virtual checkup with a doctor or healthcare professional I’ve not met in person.

%

36

10

26

60

29

31

5

I would consider letting my child see a healthcare professional virtually.

[Among those w/ children in household]

%

31

[42]

8

[12]

23

[30]

42

[51]

19

[27]

23

[24]

26

[7]

Patients should be charged the same amount for virtual appointments as for in-person ones.

%

28

10

18

67

35

32

5

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 


TABLE 2b

FEELINGS TOWARD VIRTUAL HEALTHCARE VISITS

Summary of Strongly/Somewhat agree (NET)By Generation & Gender

How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

Base: U.S. Adults

 

Total

Generation

Gender

Millennials (18-37)

Gen Xers (38-49)

Baby Boomers (50-68)

Matures (69+)

Male

Female

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Virtually monitoring or checking up on chronic conditions could help reduce hospital readmission rates (i.e., someone having to go back into the hospital after being discharged).

73

73

73

74

75

75

72

I would be comfortable with a virtual checkup if it was with my own doctor or healthcare professional.

70

71

68

68

74

70

69

Virtual consultations could make it easier for health care practitioners to commit insurance fraud.

67

64

67

68

70

69

65

I would have less faith in a diagnosis from a virtual consultation than from an in-person one.

65

63

63

63

77

65

65

Virtual consultations could make it easier for consumers to commit insurance fraud.

62

59

62

64

65

65

60

Doctors should be compensated the same amount for virtual appointments as for in-person ones.

36

38

39

34

33

35

37

I would be comfortable with a virtual checkup with a doctor or healthcare professional I’ve not met in person.

36

42

40

31

21

41

30

I would consider letting my child see a healthcare professional virtually.

31

37

36

28

17

35

28

Patients should be charged the same amount for virtual appointments as for in-person ones.

28

30

31

25

22

29

27

 


TABLE 3

DIAGNOSED CHRONIC OR LONG-LASTING CONDITIONS

Have you ever been diagnosed with any of the following chronic or long-lasting conditions by a physician or other health care provider? Please select all that apply.

Base: U.S. Adults

 

Total

%

Any (NET)

67

High blood pressure/Hypertension

28

High cholesterol

26

Seasonal allergies

23

Depression

17

Osteoarthritis (commonly referred to as arthritis)

13

Diabetes

11

Obesity

10

Cancer

7

Heart disease

5

Multiple sclerosis

1

I have been diagnosed with another chronic or long-lasting condition that is not listed

19

None

32

Decline to answer

1

 

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between August 13 and 18, 2014 among 2,537 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

The Harris Poll® #104, November 19, 2014

By Larry Shannon-Missal, Managing Editor, The Harris Poll