Excellus survey: Fewer than half of adults surveyed are aware of telemedicine

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Source: Central New York Business Journal

Nearly five in 10 upstate New York adults are aware of telemedicine, and 80 percent of those who have used telemedicine rate their experience as “very good” or “excellent.”

That’s according to a survey commissioned by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, the results of which it released Feb. 22.

Excellus, Central New York’s largest health insurer, on Nov. 29 announced it would offer a telemedicine option to all privately insured and Medicare Advantage members in 2017.

The online survey, which the polling firm One Research administered, contacted 2,000 upstate New York adults, “a representative sample of the region’s U.S. Census Bureau demographics,” the Rochester–based health insurer said in a news release about the survey issued the same day. One Research, LLC is located in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, according to its website.

“Telemedicine services are widely and quickly being made available in the region, so we thought it was important to get a handle on levels of awareness that exist and regional responses to a broad spectrum of related questions,” Martin Lustick, senior VP and corporate medical officer for Excellus, said in the release.

Respondents who had health insurance were not asked to identify their insurance carrier.

The survey results establish a “benchmark” for consumer acceptance and use of telemedicine. Excellus will conduct additional surveys to track “possible changes in attitudes,” the health insurer said.


Survey results

About one-quarter of survey respondents indicated that they plan to use telemedicine in the future, while an “equal number” said they did not plan to use it.

About half of the respondents were undecided.

The survey also found that the percentage of respondents who plan to use telemedicine “varied significantly” by region. They included 31 percent of respondents in both Central New York’s Southern Tier and the Utica/Rome/North Country regions; 25 percent in the Finger Lakes region; 23 percent in Central New York; and 20 percent in Western New York, per the release.

Respondents who reported that they had either used or were familiar with telemedicine were asked their first and second choice for having any future minor medical-condition needs addressed.

An in-person visit with their doctor ranked highest, followed by a telemedicine visit with their doctor.

Use of an urgent-care center, and a telemedicine visit with a provider other than their own doctor ranked third and fourth, respectively.

Going to a hospital emergency room ranked last as a preference for treating minor conditions.

“That initial ranking was gratifying as a finding to us,” said Lustick. “…because our repeated promotions around a telemedicine option have been very clear. Ideal medical care is when a patient can see his or her doctor. We’ve said the second best choice, if available, is a telemedicine visit with their physician. A new option we’ve been suggesting is to consider a telemedicine visit with another provider for treatment of minor conditions. With time, we expect that will gain in popularity over going to an urgent care center.”

The Excellus survey also found that about one-third of upstate New York respondents who are between the ages of 18 and 44 plan to use telemedicine.

However, interest in using telemedicine “declines with age,” Excellus said.

Preference for in-person interaction is the “main reason” why respondents don’t use telemedicine.

People who use telemedicine are “significantly more likely” to report using it again.

On weekdays, telemedicine is mostly used during daytime hours, however weekend use is typically at night (between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.).

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