Patients Embrace Virtual Health Care During Pandemic

Patients are using and enjoying virtual care and communications at high rates due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with 60 percent reporting in a new survey that based on their recent experiences, they want to use technology more for communicating with health care providers and managing their conditions in the future.
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person attending e-visit with doctor
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, patients are reacting positively to virtual health care options. // Stock photo

Patients are using and enjoying virtual care and communications at high rates due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with 60 percent reporting in a new survey that based on their recent experiences, they want to use technology more for communicating with health care providers and managing their conditions in the future.

Dublin-based Accenture, a global professional services company with offices in Detroit, Livonia, Troy, and Ann Arbor, surveyed 2,700 oncology, cardiology, and immunology patients globally, and nine out of 10 reported the quality of virtual care was as good or better than before, according to its recent study.

The survey was conducted in May across China, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Due to the pandemic, health care providers cancelled appointments, transportation options were shut down, and patients didn’t want to risk exposure to COVID-19. About 70 percent of patients deferred or cancelled at least some elements of their treatment.

Nearly half of all surveyed patients began getting home treatments using tools such as video conference calls, online chat, and apps. Of those who used video conferencing, 63 percent said it was very good or excellent. About 70 percent reported they were using video conferencing for treatment for the first time.

“Along with the move to virtual forms of care and communication came a sense of greater satisfaction with the care provided,” says Brad Michel, lead of Accenture North America Life Sciences. “Many patients said they felt care was more personal, more convenient, and timelier. Rather than having to commute to a doctor’s office or treatment facility and undergo the stress of sitting in a waiting room for their turn, care was now being administered at home – in a setting, time, and place where people felt most comfortable. A good many also said the information they received was better.”

About 47 percent of respondents said they received better, more personalized responses, 41 percent said they received quicker responses, and 40 percent said it was more convenient to access through new communications channels.

Of the patients surveyed, 60 percent said their trust in health care providers has increased, and 45 percent said their trust in pharmaceutical and medical device companies has increased.

About 77 percent of patients said clinical trials they were participating in were suspended or delayed, which could affect the speed to which new treatments come to market. About 61 percent of patients whose trials continued said they used some form of virtual communication or care.

“Increasing virtual communication and treatment options offers multiple benefits for clinical trials, as one-third of all patients in trials reported that even before COVID-19, they had difficulty making appointments or physically getting to clinics for treatment,” says Michel. “Patients want more video conferencing and fewer clinic visits, which would make clinical trials more convenient and accessible.”

Patients said they want to be consulted more, but they are far from the center of the clinical trial design process. As decisions were made on how to modify clinical trials due to the pandemic, 14 percent of patients were asked about what changes would work for them. This was true across all therapeutic areas and geographies.

“The pandemic has shifted patient attitudes and expectations as they have embraced new digital tools,” says Stuart Henderson, global life sciences lead at Accenture. “What we are seeing and hearing is that virtual care is here to stay. Companies need to invest people, time, and money now to build on this momentum to expand and enhance the tools and platforms they use to communicate with and provide care for patients. But technology is not enough, as companies must also continue to engage patients directly to deliver on expectations.”

Accenture surveyed 450 patients from each country. Participants had to have been going to a health care facility for treatment or self-administering at home and have a cardiovascular, immunology or rheumatology, or oncology condition.

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