Telehealth is not going anywhere and most people prefer to receive such assistance for behavioral health concerns, according to a new survey by commercial real estate company Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL).
The survey was conducted this January as Medicare began expanding options for where recipients can receive telehealth services – a move that behavioral health care experts and insiders have said will affect the industry on the whole.
Overall, the survey polled over 4,000 Americans and looked at how convenience and choice are informing patient decisions. For survey respondents stating a preference as to where and how they would like to receive telehealth services, 82% said that they preferred to do so for behavioral health and psychiatry appointments. The number was slightly second to those who stated that they preferred telehealth services at a minute clinic or retail clinic.
The survey noted that telehealth is set up to be more feasible in the future for the behavioral health experience than for certain physical care services. The feasibility could be due to the less physical nature of behavioral health care.
“Virtual health has limitations to how much it can perform as a service – it’s estimated that only 20% of outpatient visits can be performed virtually in the future,” JLL said, as it attributed the statistic to health care research organization Advisory Board. “Health visits in psychiatry have a much higher feasibility to be carried out virtually than care in ophthalmology or urology, for example.”
Overall, 70% of respondents said that they would have taken a behavioral health appointment sooner if one were available, which is almost half the number of those saying they would do so for a non-primary care physician. The number was also higher than for other services that respondents said they would take a telehealth appointment for if one was open.
The preferences of individuals for telehealth is coming as its usage has been shown to have shot up more than 6,000% during the pandemic, and as more digital providers are looking to consolidate and capitalize on the demand for an array of behavioral services.
Citing statistics from Advisory Board as well as from health care analytics firm Chartis Group, JLL also noted that telehealth visits for psychiatry – since the early days of the pandemic – have not leveled off to the same degree as have other services across the health care spectrum.
“In early 2020, less than 3% of psychiatric visits were conducted virtually,” JLL wrote. “When the pandemic hit, that number shot to 61% by the first week of April and has hovered in the low- to mid-60% range. All specialties across the board saw a similar drastic spike in telehealth visits in the early days of the pandemic but, unlike psychiatric visits, have since simmered to be only about 10% higher than pre-pandemic levels.”
Additionally, JLL found that respondents for behavioral health and psychiatry services were 20% more likely to check reviews than those responding for doctor services. The finding, JLL said, was “indicating that more personalized care warrants more research into the providers themselves.”
In spite of any past technical issues regarding telehealth, JLL said it is necessary that providers across the health care spectrum get attuned to the wishes of patients to receive more telehealth services.
“Many telehealth platforms were put together hastily amid the nationwide lockdowns in 2020 and suffer from technical challenges and glitches,” the survey stated in its conclusion. “Telehealth is here to stay as a facet of the healthcare industry and, in turn, will result in more in-person care. Because of this, systems need to embrace telehealth and invest in strengthening their platforms’ performance and capabilities.”
You can view the report here.