Will Virtual Care Stand The Test Of Time? If You’re Asking The Question, It’s Time To Catch Up
Virtual Care Blog Series — Part 3
Forrester made the call that 2020 would be the tipping point for virtual care adoption. The pandemic accelerated digital transformation for many healthcare organizations (HCOs) from a matter of years to a matter of months. Previous barriers to virtual care for consumers have been removed, such as lack of consumer awareness, cost and reimbursement hurdles, and the ability for patients to connect with their existing provider that they trust.
Furthermore, recent results from Forrester Analytics’ Consumer Technographics® survey data indicates that 36% of online adults found that the care they received virtually was just as effective as what they would have received in person, and over 30% of online adults will seek care either digitally or over the phone again in the future.
To better understand how adoption has played out in the market and what areas are seeing the greatest amount of growth, we have been connecting with many vendors in the virtual care space. These vendors have reported a significant rise in enrollment, adoption, and new implementations by HCOs. As part of our weekly series on virtual care, we are continuing to highlight how virtual care is transforming the future of healthcare. Missed the previous blogs? Check them out here.
Breaking Down Barriers For Sustained Adoption By Providers And Consumers
While many virtual care vendors provide clinical support with their own staffed physicians, even these platforms report that over 90% of patient visits are between patients and their existing providers, not those staffed by the vendor. This is key in breaking down a continued barrier to care. We know from our research that patients want the ability to connect with their own providers — this yields higher success in long-term adoption.
While many clinicians were previously resistant to adopt virtual care technologies, we know that over 48% of providers are now delivering care virtually. One vendor, eVisit, reported a 3,900% increase in the number of providers added to their platform in Q1 2020 over Q1 2019.
Virtual care visits can put less time burden on the provider and the patient. Typical in-person medical visits average a total time of 121 minutes. The total time spent includes 37 minutes in travel time and 84 minutes in the clinic waiting and filing out paperwork. In comparison, most virtual care visits take 10–15 minutes, and many of these solutions are enabled with AI and voice to speed up the documentation process for providers. For example, Luma Health reported that providers spend approximately 13 minutes per patient using its platform.
From a consumer perspective, net-new registrations were at an all-time high for many vendors, including but not limited to Zipnosis and Bright.md. From January to the end of April 2020, Bright.md saw a 2,000% increase in net-new patients using its platform. Zipnosis reported almost 500,000 new registrations over the same time frame. Both platforms enable existing provider networks, further solidifying virtual care as a new model of care for providers across the US market.
As consumers experience the convenience and effectiveness of virtual care, the barriers to sustained adoption erode quickly. Amwell shared that most of its healthcare system partners deliver care through a centralized staffing model and, on average, report that 60–75% of patients become repeat users.
Virtual Care Is Surmounting The Generational Digital Divide
Overcoming generational challenges for older consumers is key to supporting chronic-care patients virtually and driving remote monitoring adoption. Both components are necessary to create a more proactive, preventive system that is customer-centric. Data points to this group quickly adopting virtual care out of safety and convenience.
Across multiple vendors, we heard about the rise in adoption from older consumers. For example, HealthVerity tracks virtual care on a week-by-week basis as part of its Patient Confidence Index. From week 12 (March 16) to week 20 (May 11), encounters for patients ages 18–33 grew over 1,600%, while encounters for patients ages 65 and up jumped over 5,500%. Furthermore, Amwell reported a 100% increase in user registrations over the age of 65.
While older consumers are seeing success, younger consumers appear to face challenges with access. Our research shows that while younger consumers tend to be more digitally savvy, younger consumers may struggle with accessing virtual care. Consumers ages 18 to 24 are least likely to feel confident in their ability to access virtual care compared with any other age group. For these young consumers, a lack of trust in the quality of digital health advice and concerns about the cost of virtual care also pose barriers to usage.
Optimize Virtual Care Strategies Now
Virtual care is here to stay, and consumers are ready and willing to make the shift. HCOs must look to optimize their virtual care programs now to ensure that customers receive a well-orchestrated, seamless, consistent, and easy experience. Many HCOs were forced to implement virtual care quickly and did not have the luxury of prioritizing the customer experience. Without a strong, differentiated digital front door strategy, the new empowered consumer will make the shift to new healthcare offerings and turn not to the organization that is closest geographically but to the firm that offers the best experience. The good news? Great customer experiences drive revenue, even in healthcare.
Have more questions? Forrester clients can request an inquiry to dig deeper on these trends and read our research on optimizing the digital front door strategy in healthcare. There are best practices that can be leveraged to optimize virtual care program deployment during the pandemic and beyond. Reach out to learn more.
Want to participate in the discussion? Send us a note at email@example.com.
Special thanks to the vendors that continue to contribute to our weekly series, including Amwell, Bright.md, CirrusMD, eVisit, HealthVerity, Luma Health, and Zipnosis.
- Forrester Analytics Consumer Technographics® COVID-19 Survey (Wave 2)
- Jake Miller, “Paying for health care with time,” The Harvard Gazette, October 5, 2015 (https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2015/10/paying-for-health-care-with-time/)
- Joel E. Barthelemy, “Virtual Care vs. In-Person Visits: Which is Higher Quality?” GlobalMed, July 15, 2019 (https://www.globalmed.com/telemedicine-vs-in-person-visits-which-is-higher-quality/)