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64pc of US consumers want video-enabled doctor visits: poll

A poll showing that 64 percent of Americans would welcome video-enabled doctor visits and that 7 percent, or 20 million people, would switch primary care doctors to ones that offer telehealth visits, suggests that mobile video deserves a prominent spot in health marketing plans.

Moreover, 63 percent believe that live video visits are more likely to yield an accurate diagnosis than phone or email alone, according to the poll conducted by Harris Poll for telehealth company American Well last month. The results point to mobile video?s potential for offering consumers more choice for convenient care in the healthcare-services field.

?Health marketers need to take account of a mind shift toward mobile video among young adults,? said Mary Modahl, chief marketing officer at American Well, Boston. ?The days of running TV ads, sending printed post cards, putting up office posters, and hosting health fairs are coming to an end. 

?Marketing for health has got to be digital first, with mobile video taking center stage,? she said.

Key factors
The nationally projectable survey of 2,019 Americans aged 18 and older was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of American Well Dec. 1-3. 

The survey uncovered key factors important to consumers when it comes to telehealth, including that consumers perceive video as the best form of telehealth, compared with phone or email alone.

American Well app.

Among smartphone users, this sentiment was higher at 69 percent. 

These views are corroborated by statistics recorded on American Well's telehealth service, Amwell, where 94 percent of visits use live video.

The survey also found that consumers want to select the doctor they see, not be randomly assigned to one. Eighty-eight percent prefer to choose a doctor based on the credentials, training and experience provided in a physician's online profile.

Another finding was that consumers expect online visits to be cost-savers. Sixty-two percent thought a video visit should cost less than an in-person visit. 

With in-office visits costing, on average, $82 for first-time patients according to the Healthcare Blue Book, Amwell offers a $49 physician visit ? a savings of $33.

While consumers still consider the emergency room as their first choice for late night urgent care, video visits have become the second choice overall for consumers if their child or a loved one was sick with a high fever, ranking higher than 24-hour nurse lines, according to the survey.

Moreover, 21 percent of people said they would do a video visit first. That number rises to 30 percent in parents of children under 18.

In another care-related finding, 70 percent of consumers reported that they would rather have an online video visit than an in-office visit to obtain common primary care prescriptions. 

Consumers indicated interest in telehealth visits for getting prescriptions refilled (60 percent), antibiotics (41 percent), and chronic condition management medication (40 percent).

Telehealth also is a popular option when it comes to choosing a doctor. 

Patient-doctor consultation via mobile.

Most patients said they were willing to see a doctor via video telehealth (64 percent), and 7 percent of consumers would actually switch primary care doctors to ones that offered telehealth visits.

While 7 percent may seem like a modest number, it represents 20 million adults.

Among the millennial generation, young adults 18-34 years old, this number was higher, at 11 percent.

Mobile health is picking up steam as major pharmacy brands such as Walgreens dive into the growing mobile heatlh space. Last month, Walgreens gave California and Michigan users of its Web site and mobile application round-the-clock access to doctors.

The service, which is to be gradually rolled out to other states and markets, let users consult virtually with MDLive certified physicians who could also prescribe medication for a range of acute conditions.

The move let Walgreens, a leader in mobile, differentiate itself from other pharmacy brands such as CVS that are branching out into the mobile pharmacy sector.

Embracing telehealth
A big embrace of telehealth in the months and years ahead can be expected, according to the survey.
 
?American Well is already seeing massive growth ? the number of video visits more than tripled in 2014,? Ms. Modahl said. ?Not only do we expect to see many more urgent care visits, but we are anticipating that the types of visits will expand as well. 

Mobile video's perceived diagnosis accuracy impresses consumers.

?Amwell launched nutrition services and mental health counselling recently to meet that demand. 
 
?Above all, the positive consumer sentiment we found indicates that telehealth has real potential to change the way healthcare is delivered,? she said. ?Leading health systems will begin to offer far more convenient, less costly, and consumer-driven care options as part of a new mobile health ecosystem.?

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York.