By John Commins
About 14% of respondents to a new the survey reported that access to telehealth kept them out of the emergency department.
The new national survey of 1776 people, conducted by telephone in June and July by the Bipartisan Policy Center and Social Sciences Research Solutions, also found that 80% of respondents had a primary care health issue resolved using telehealth.
“New telehealth flexibilities have allowed millions of Americans to access healthcare from home, and as our survey shows, telehealth has the potential to take non-emergency cases out of the emergency department,” said Marilyn Serafini, BPC health project director.
“BPC encourages Congress to act swiftly to extend telehealth flexibilities beyond the public health emergency to study their impact on consumers, providers, and payers in a post-pandemic world,” she said.
One-third of adults surveyed reported having a telehealth visit for themselves or a dependent in 2020, with Medicare beneficiaries (44%) having the most visits.
And while 80% of respondents said they were likely to use telehealth to access routine and preventive healthcare during the ongoing pandemic, access challenges remain for the elderly and rural residents.
“Telehealth has helped transform the way healthcare has been delivered during COVID-19; however, broadband remains an obstacle that must be addressed, especially in rural areas,” said Walter Panzirer, trustee, Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, who funded the survey.
“To accelerate care delivery, policymakers must provide and expand high-quality virtual care across the country. The technology is popular, effective, and addresses care disparities,” he said.
The most common telehealth visit was for preventive services, prescription refills, or routine visit for a chronic illness (63%). Rural residents said they were more likely to use telehealth for surgical consults than people living in non-rural areas.
More than nine in 10 respondents said they were satisfied with the audio and video quality of their telehealth, while older adults were more likely to use audio-only, telephone services
More than half (55%) of Black respondents said they would likely use telehealth for a routine visit for a chronic illness compared to 45% of white respondents.
The survey also found that seniors had higher rates of telehealth use over the past year but faced significant challenges. Nearly half (45%) of adults reported technology related problems when accessing telehealth, including digital literacy, access to high-speed internet, and securing devices.
More than one-third (35%) of rural residents and 42% of older adults said access to high-speed broadband was an obstacle, compared to 24% of non-rural residents and 21% of younger adults.
John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.