Surveying Seniors Using Telehealth

American Well commissioned a Poll to do an online study on over 2,000 senior adults to measure usage and sentiments toward telehealth. On June 19, 2019, American Well released their “2019 Senior Consumer Survey Findings”.

According to information from Credit Suisse, the survey points to encouraging signs.  The survey results show that the current senior utilization of telehealth is low as only 1% of seniors have ever had an online doctor’s visit. However, 52% of seniors are willing to use telehealth which means that about 25 million Americans over the age of 65 are willing to use telehealth.

A major barrier to telehealth adoption includes reimbursement. However, according to Credit Suisse comments, the underlying assumption is that most of the Medicare Advantage health plans have included telehealth benefits in their bids for 2020 which were due in June. According to the research, health plans expectations concerning telehealth used by seniors is likely to dictate how contracts are structured between health plans and telehealth vendors.

Further research indicates that CMS estimates a 2.49 % telehealth utilization rate in 2020 increasing to 2.71 % in 2021, and 2.95 % in 2022. However, if the survey is any indication of the potential telehealth utilization among seniors, CMS’ expectations could very well turn out to be conservative.

The survey does indicate that seniors believe telehealth delivers faster and more convenient care. Around 73% of seniors identified faster healthcare service as the main driver behind their willingness to use telehealth. Seniors also view telehealth as a way to save time (58%) and money (54 %) and gain better access to providers (53%).

The survey shows that seniors’ most valued telehealth service relates to prescription renewals and chronic care. The poll reports 84% of seniors would use telehealth for prescription renewals and 67% of seniors said they were open to using video visits to manage chronic conditions.

According to the survey, seniors experience with video calls is surprisingly high but not for healthcare. So far, 45% of Americans over 65 have participated in video calls such as FaceTime, Skype, or Google Hangout. Today, 25% of seniors are currently using a mobile phone health app, and of those, 27 % are using their health plan’s mobile phone app.

The survey also showed that nearly two-thirds of seniors are willing to go to the emergency room for urgent care. More than any other patient age group, seniors said they would go to the emergency room in the middle of the night for an urgent medical issue.

CMS recently introduced the “Emergency Triage and Transport (ET3) payment model which will allow ambulances to take seniors to the urgent care center, doctor’s office, or treat them via telehealth instead of sending them to the ER. While only in the pilot stage, if adopted nationally, this model could save Medicare more than $500 million a year

Email Jailendra Singh Credit Suisse Research Analyst at or call (212) 325-8121 for more information or to provide feedback and ideas.

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