Almost 1M families used video consultations with physicians last year

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telemedicineThe number of households using video consultations with physicians will grow, from 900,000 in 2013 to 22.6 million in 2018, according to a report from Parks Associates. Parks Associates added that video consultation revenues will grow from under $100 million in 2013 to $13.7 billion in 2018.

By the third quarter of 2013, 28 percent of broadband households in the United Stated used some type of online healthcare communications. And in this group, 36 percent have used the tools once, 27 percent have used the tools twice over a two-year period, while 4 only percent have used the tools 10 times or more over a two-year period.

Of the 72 percent who have not used these online tools, 51 percent are comfortable with the idea of communicating with physicians using online tools and 80 percent of those cite time saved as one of the main incentives to start. The other 49 percent do not feel comfortable with using online tools to contact their physician and say they have no intention of doing so.

Nonetheless, only 11 percent of broadband households prefer video consultations. Patients most prefer face-to-face visits with physicians, at 68 percent, telephone consultations, at 59 percent, and email consultations, at 38 percent.

Virtual healthcare communications will be largely adopted after healthcare providers are required to offer them to patients because of future Meaningful Use requirements, according to Parks Associates. The research firm also warned that a barrier to adoption will be ease of use — the technology should be as easy for someone who doesn’t use technology often as well as a tech expert.

Patients between the ages of 18 and 34 who have an annual household income of $50,000 or more are currently the heaviest users of online healthcare communications tools.

While Parks Associates said patient portals will be appealing to patients because it will make it easier to avoid “classical office hours”, according to one recent study – a retroactive study of 2,357 adult primary care patients at Mayo Clinic’s Rochester, Minnesota location found there was no significant change in the frequency of office visits for patients who used an electronic messaging system through a patient portal.

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