Telehealth – which in some ways was viewed by many as a curiosity prior to the global pandemic – has become more of a fixture in delivering care since the onset of the coronavirus.
Nonetheless, many still prefer the old-fashioned way in person, particularly when it comes to behavioral health services.
A quarter of Americans favor receiving mental health care virtually, according to a survey conducted by digital health seed fund company Rock Health and the Stanford University School of Medicine.
That number pales in comparison to those who preferred the touch of in-person mental health services, with 62% saying they favored care in a physician, clinician or therapist’s office.
Survey respondents also preferred in-person behavioral care twice as much as they favored in-person prescription refills, and almost as twice as much they favored getting treatment in a doctor’s office for the flu or a cold. At least 10% of those who received virtual mental health assistance did so each by video, phone or text.
The results might come as a surprise for those who have been following the trends for virtual services across the health care spectrum, as telehealth usage has grown by 38X since the pandemic’s beginning, according to consulting firm McKinsey & Company.
Additionally, 88% of Americans have said that they want to continue using telehealth for non-emergency purposes, according to management solutions company Sykes Enterprises. Sykes reported that 65% of Americans had doubts about the efficacy of telehealth in early 2020.
More than 40% of Rock Health respondents who did not prefer telemedicine said that they would rather discuss their options in person, with 22% of respondents voicing concerns about quality of services. However, the survey does seem to indicate that there might be more gradual support for telehealth going forward, as both of those categories declined for a second straight year. Furthermore, the number of respondents who said they were not aware of telehealth options likewise declined for a second straight year.
Telehealth usage – particularly with behavioral health – might also get a boost from new Medicare rules expanding the number of places where enrollees can receive virtual assistance, which could potentially raise awareness among Americans about virtual options.
Globally, the telebehavioral health market is expected to be worth over a quarter of a trillion dollars by 2027, according to Data Bridge Market Research. That figure would represent a compound annual growth rate of 29% from 2020.
The authors of the Rock Health report say that they believe the market for telehealth, in general, can benefit from platforms that place a premium on factors like accessibility and scale.
“We expect virtual-first care models to proliferate, with novel and varied uses of all telemedicine modalities,” the Rock Health report noted. “This untethering from the live video visit will enable models that are more scalable, cost-effective, accessible, and ultimately, more equitable. With innovators focused on creating value through personalized virtual care experiences and need fulfillment, it’s clear there is a promising path forward for telemedicine-enabled care.”