COVID-19 saw a shift toward telehealth visits as patients sought to reduce their exposure to the virus – and as changes in government reimbursements made telehealth a more viable option for providers. However, as the pandemic recedes and patients are growing more confident returning to public life thanks to the vaccine and masking measures, providers are experiencing an uptick in in-person visits.
Here’s what to know about trends and patient preferences when considering in-person vs. telehealth options.
In-Person is Preferred for Most Visit Types
While telehealth is an acceptable alternative to some in-person visits, 64% of patients prefer to see their doctor in person. There are several reasons for this. Face-to-face visits are more thorough, better for issues that require physical exams or assessments and provide more avenues for patients and doctors to raise non-related topics or concerns, such as routine screen reminders or questions regarding minor symptoms or changes. Patients also prefer face-to-face visits as a way to connect with their provider and safely and confidentially discuss their health – something that is not as easily achieved with telehealth, where the environment is not as controlled.
In-person visits are also an opportunity for patients to complete multiple health-related tasks at once, such as picking up a prescription or having scans or bloodwork done.
Telehealth Has Accessibility and Affordability Factors
However, telehealth continues to play an important role in care. For patients with chronic health or mobility issues, telehealth offers a convenient, accessible way to connect with a provider. It’s also invaluable for patients in rural areas or areas with barriers to transportation. Telehealth can also be more affordable and convenient to patients who are sensitive to copays or have inflexible work or home responsibilities.
Telehealth can be helpful for simple, routine visits such as prescription refills or basic check-ups for minor issues. However, providers need to be aware of price sensitivity regarding telehealth and possible perceptions of this method of care being of lower value.
What this Means for Your Practice
While care provision appears to be shifting away from telehealth and back towards in-patient visits, providers need to consider their patient mix’s unique circumstances and needs. If your clinic is in a rural area or transportation is an issue, ensuring you have the technology and designated consultation spaces to cater to telehealth patients is vital. You may also need to consider providing at-home testing and monitoring equipment for some patients.
Practices where in-person care is the focus, may want to consider whether their existing set-up is adequate for the shift back towards face-to-face visits. For example, if you’ve downsized your space during COVID-19 or have avoided expanding, now might be the time to explore a new or larger environment that takes into consideration patients’ expectations and preferences in the post-COVID era.
At Gittleson Zuppas Medical Realty, we specialize in connecting healthcare providers with state-of-the-art medical real estate. Whether you’re downsizing, expanding, or opening a new office, we can help you find the space that suits your – and your patients’ – needs. For expert guidance, get in touch today.