- Patients are largely satisfied with their telehealth experiences, and Amwell takes the cake when it comes to user satisfaction.
- But pricing switch-ups could deter consumers from relying on virtual care and drag on telehealth's staying power.
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Telehealth users going through direct-to-consumer (D2C) vendors are highly satisfied: On a 1,000-point scale, patients ranked their satisfaction with telehealth at 856, on average, according to a new JD Power survey of 4,302 US consumers. And while there wasn't much discrepancy among patients' satisfaction with specific vendors, Amwell came out on top with a score of 885—that's compared with MDLive, for instance, which earned a score of 843.
Patients have been swarming to telehealth amid the pandemic—and telehealth vendors have responded by diversifying their offerings to win over customers and keep them happy. Thirty-six percent of US adults tried telehealth as of August 2020—a sharp increase from the 11% who used it pre-pandemic in January, according to CivicScience.
And now we've seen top vendors diversify solutions to appeal to different pockets of the market: For instance, Doctor on Demand extended its service to Medicare beneficiaries in May before its prime competitors—giving itself a chance to corner off this segment of consumers and build out services to meet their needs. And Teladoc sent waves across the industry when it merged with Livongo, whose continuous monitoring and coaching platforms could allow Teladoc to keep hold of consumers through a variety of channels.
We think pricing will be a key barrier to both sustained adoption of telehealth and vendors' ability to lure in first-time users—which could throw a wrench in their expansion strategies.
- Large insurers are beginning to retract telehealth coverage policies expanded during the pandemic—which could put off consumers who began using telehealth for its slim price point. Most big-name insurers have been fully covering telehealth copays over the last six months—but UnitedHealthcare, Anthem, and other major private payers announced this week that they'll no longer waive copays for telehealth. Higher copays could dissuade patients from continuing to use telehealth: 64% of JD Power respondents said they'd be more likely to use telehealth if the copay was less than a traditional visit. Insurers' changing coverage policies could also spur confusion and deter patients from using the tech: 15% of respondents cited "lack of awareness of cost" as a barrier to telehealth—and since the survey was fielded before insurers started rolling back coverage, we think even more would say so now.
- Nonusers may not be as enticed to try telehealth in lieu of in-person care if the trade off of reduced spending isn't there from the get-go. About half of US adults who were willing to try telehealth in 2019 named cost savings as a reason they'd take the leap, per an Amwell survey. But if patients have to shoulder copays and other costs that insurers may reestablish, they'll be less inclined—especially as their doctors make an effort to lure them in-office amid paltrier reimbursements for virtual consultations.
As long as telehealth providers continue to focus on building convenient options into their portfolios, we think they're in good shape to sustain high patient volumes.
Eighty percent of patients said they'd switch providers solely for "convenience factors" in 2019, per a NRC Health Report, and this appetite likely transfers over to virtual doctors, too. As vendors diversify solutions, they'll likely be laser-focused on making their solutions convenient and accessible—like adding options for videos, calls, and texts—to keep patients hooked on their products.
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