Patient satisfaction with telehealth services has been increasing during the COVID-19 pandemic, but hurdles are still in place, a J.D. Power report released Thursday found.
According to its 2020 U.S. Telehealth Satisfaction Study, Amwell ranks highest in telehealth satisfaction among direct-to-consumer brands, while Cigna ranks most highly among payers of health plan-provided virtual care services.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been a moment of truth for telehealth, and, by most accounts, the technology is rising to the challenge and delivering a high degree of satisfaction among those who use it,” said James Beem, managing director of global healthcare intelligence at J.D. Power, in a statement.
WHY IT MATTERS
The COVID-19 pandemic paved the way, in many respects, for an enormous uptick in telehealth use. And, for the most part, clinicians and patients alike seem to have had positive experiences with virtual care.
This sentiment is echoed in the J.D. Power survey. Fielded in June and July, its findings are based on responses from 4,302 health consumers who had used a telehealth service within the last year.
The study measures customer satisfaction based on customer service, consultation, enrollment, and billing and payment.
Through that lens, customers ranked their satisfaction as high, although more than half say they encountered at least one barrier making it difficult to use. The most common hurdles were limited services, confusing tech requirements and lack of awareness of cost.
In addition, 35% of users said they experienced a problem during a visit, with audio issues being the most common.
The study found that at-risk patients – meaning those with the lowest self-reported health status – had lower levels of telehealth satisfaction.
And nearly half of respondents said their top reason for choosing telehealth was safety, compared with 13% in 2019.
When it comes to vendors, Amwell ranked highest among direct-to-consumer brands, with Doctor on Demand second. MDLIVE had the lowest ranking in the J.D. Power survey, although its overall satisfaction was still quite high.
Cigna came in highest for payers, with Kaiser Foundation Health Plan next and UnitedHealthCare third. Anthem was lowest – though, again, the satisfaction rate was high.
THE LARGER TREND
Telehealth has been experiencing something of a renaissance thanks to relaxed federal regulations in combination with the social distancing measures necessitated by the pandemic. Although numbers have dipped after an initial spike, they’re still leaps and bounds higher than they were before the COVID-19 crisis.
Still, users are being left behind. Some reports have suggested that Black and other minority group patients may be less likely to use telehealth during the pandemic than white patients, and advocates have raised concerns about broadband access as presenting a major hurdle to virtual care.
ON THE RECORD
“Even though the public awareness with Telehealth is higher due to the influence of COVID-19, the barriers for the consumer to engage with the technology has been a consistent theme in our research,” said Beem.