Survey: Telehealth Usage Jumps, But Industry Faces Growing Pains

According to the results of a survey conducted by J.D. Power, a global leader in consumer insights, advisory services, and data and analytics based in Troy, service limitations, difficulty accessing care, and inconsistent care are some of the main growing pains the growing telehealth industry is confronting as it matures.
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African American woman has medical consultation appointment video video call with her doctor.
According to a J.D. Power survey, telehealth usage boomed in the last year, but many users faced challenges. // Stock Photo

According to the results of a survey conducted by J.D. Power, a global leader in consumer insights, advisory services, and data and analytics based in Troy, service limitations, difficulty accessing care, and inconsistent care are some of the main growing pains the growing telehealth industry is confronting as it matures.

The 2021 U.S. Telehealth Satisfaction Study shows the surge in telehealth over the past 18 months grew 36 percent among survey respondents. Despite the growing adoption, the industry still needs to make strides to improve satisfaction.

“It’s impossible to ignore that 36 percent of the health care customers we measure within our research have used telehealth services this year — which is four times higher than a year ago,” says James Beem, managing director of global health care intelligence at J.D. Power.

“However, digging deeper into the research, it’s clear that customer satisfaction has declined during the same period, with many users citing limited access to the services they need and inconsistencies in the care they receive. As the industry grows, it is critical to address these challenges.”

The survey found that the groups with the highest usage of telehealth services during the past year — which jumped from 7 percent in 2019 and 9 percent in 2020 — were Generation Y and Pre-Boomers.

The top reason those that used these services did so was convenience, cited by 57 percent of those surveyed; the ability to receive care quickly, cited by 47 percent; and safety, cited by 36 percent.

Despite these benefits, overall satisfaction with both direct-to-consumer and payer-sponsored telehealth services declined year-over-year. The most frequently cited barriers encountered by patients were limited services at 24 percent, followed by lack of awareness of costs, confusing technology requirements, and lack of information all coming in at 15 precent.

Overall satisfaction was 85 points lower (on a 1,000-point scale) among patients with the lowest self-reported health status than among patients who consider themselves in excellent health. Similarly, healthier patients are more likely to understand the information provided during the visit than less healthy patients.

Teledoc is the highest ranking direct-to-consumer telehealth brand with a score of 874. MDLive ranks second with a score of 868 and MyTelemedicine ranks third with a score of 859.

Among payers of health plan-provided telehealth services, UnitedHealthcare ranks highest with a score of 868. Humana and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan tied for second with a score of 865.

The J.D. Power U.S. Telehealth Satisfaction Study, now in its third year, measures customer satisfaction with their telehealth service experience based on four factors (in order of importance): customer service (42 percent); consultation (28 percent); enrollment (19 percent); and billing and payment (11 percent).

The study was based on responses of 4,676 health care customers who used a telehealth service within the past 12 months. It was fielded in June and July of 2021.

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