Technology

Study: Millions of Texans Are Turning to Virtual Care – And Loving it

Accenture says that most patients are continuing to use telehealth even after they are allowed to return to their doctors' offices.

Opinions toward telehealth are shifting rapidly in Texas due to the coronavirus pandemic. Up until the outbreak, a lack of technology and patient awareness and consumer hesitation were infringing upon the growth in the state’s adoption of remote care options. But according to Accenture’s study patients are now more aware of and interested in remote care practices

The study found that  one in four Texans surveyed said they first learned about virtual health care following the outbreak of COVID-19, and that number of people who said they know some or a lot about virtual health has bumped up 25 percent since the pandemic. And 89 percent said that virtual care options should be available to everyone.

Around 4.5 million Texans began using virtual health services since the pandemic began, and 45 percent said they trust virtual health as much or more than an in person a visit, 15 percent higher than before the pandemic. Quality of experience and convenience were also rated high. Six out of seven remote-care patients who have continued to use virtual care options during the pandemic said their experience after the start of the COVID-19 outbreak was better or the same as before, and three-quarters said their wait time was shorter or the same.

“A lot of Texans got a taste for what it’s like to see their physicians and specialists from the safety and comfort of their home,” Mark Olney, a managing director in Accenture’s Health practice and the study’s lead author, said via a press release. “Now patients are eager to get more of that access, convenience and time savings.”

Since the pandemic, the various uses for remote care has grown. Over twice as many Texans received virtual care for preventive measures, yearly checkups, sickness diagnoses, and injury treatments after the outbreak than they did before the pandemic.

“This rapid transition gave many health providers a chance to try out new and innovative ways of working and opened their eyes to the efficiency, effectiveness and possibilities of virtual care when combined appropriately with in-person interactions,” Stephen Love, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council, said via release.

While 46% of patients who received remote care following the outbreak said convenience contributed to the increase in virtual care, more than 36% of them said their healthcare provider ordered remote visits because of COVID-19, and 15% of patients said they did not feel safe going into doctors’ offices.

“With the rising consumer demand and new, tech-savvy entrants joining the industry, the excuse that ‘health care is different from other fields’ no longer works,” Nora Belcher, executive director, Texas e-Health Alliance, said via release. “Virtual health gives Texas an opportunity to make health care more accessible and affordable and ultimately achieve better outcomes.”

The consulting firm’s study makes note of how Texans who live in rural counties and cannot easily commute to doctors’ offices, in particular, have a lot to benefit from access to virtual care. “Riding the momentum in virtual care, Texas hospitals have an opportunity to play a bigger role in caring for rural communities and other underserved populations,” Olney said via a press release.

In order to take advantage of the opportunity for Texas hospitals to play a larger role in caring for rural areas and additional underserved demographics, Accenture’s study suggests hospitals incorporate remote care into their existing care workflow and give patients an option of virtual care or in-person care. According to another one of Accenture’s studies, hospitals and physicians are the health care providers patients trust most. They should build a network of non-traditional vendors and community-based organizations to provide care and grow their impact via telehealth.

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