The survey of 1,501 U.S. consumers found that the majority are willing to use a wide range of virtual health services. For instance, 77 percent of respondents said they would use virtual services to track health indicators such as blood pressure, pulse and glucose levels; 76 percent for follow-up appointments; and 70 percent to be examined for non-urgent health issues such as a rash or a sore throat. However, only 21 percent said they have actually received health services virtually.
Of those who had tried virtual health services, 37 percent said they offer greater convenience than traditional in-person healthcare services, 34 percent did it because of familiarity using technology to manage their health, and (also) 34 percent out of curiosity. Consumers also said they would be more likely to "try virtual" if encouraged by a physician (cited by 44 percent of respondents) or a healthcare payer (31 percent).
According to the research, today's consumers are demanding a combination of in-person and virtual health services, with 78 percent of those surveyed saying they would be interested in receiving healthcare virtually some or most of the time. Therefore, the research suggests, health systems need to balance and integrate virtual and in-person services with the varying degrees to which consumers see themselves as being in charge of their own health, both today (cited by 85 percent) and if they become ill or injured (51 percent).
Accenture's research also found that applying virtual health to annual ambulatory patient encounters would save more than $7 billion worth of primary care physicians' time each year.
"Given evolving consumer attitudes toward virtual care, making virtual health a priority could be a boon for provider organizations that are resource- and finance-constrained," Frances Dare, managing director of Accenture's virtual health services, said in a statement. "As more and more patients take control of their own healthcare in the age of consumerism, provider organizations must be able to offer meaningful choices for virtual care, in-person care and a combination of both."
Accenture's online survey was conducted by Nielsen on behalf of Accenture between Sept. 28 and Oct. 5, 2016. Data were weighted by age, sex, education, race/ethnicity, region, income, household size, Internet use and insurance status.