Telehealth & COVID-19 in Chicago: A Follow Up

Telehealth & COVID-19 in Chicago: A Follow Up
This photo, "Doctor Attending by Teleconsultation" is copyright (c) 2020 by Ceibos via Wikicommons under a CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Back in April, we highlighted a West Monroe Partners Healthcare & Life Sciences Survey focusing on the use of telehealth services in Chicago, Seattle, and Minneapolis. Although the initial study was completed on the cusp of the COVID-19 outbreak, West Monroe Partners used the March results as a touchstone to document changes in Chicago resident attitudes towards medical telehealth services in the wake of the state’s fight against COVID-19. (You can read West Monroe Partners’ summary here).

West Monroe Partners recently released the results of their July follow-up study in telehealth services. Focusing on a smaller respondent base (500 Chicago residents compared to 1,000 residents of three cities including Chicago), the July West Monroe Partners telehealth study focused on documenting not just changes in telehealth adoption, but how the current COVID-19 pandemic is reshaping overall health care delivery. (Almost two-thirds of respondents reside in Cook County) The West Monroe Partners provides some key insights into how attitudes towards telehealth are changing, and how other healthcare-related attitudes and behaviors are being shaped.

  • Not only are people increasing their use of provider telehealth services, but they are also adopting more positive attitudes towards those services: Although 18% of March respondents indicated that they had used telehealth services in the past year, that number rose to 86% in July. Attitudes towards telehealth have also improved, with respondents who were unwilling to engage in any telehealth services dropped from 47% in March to 38%. Respondents also reported increased trust and positive experiences when working with providers via telehealth services; however, providers need to maintain a level of flexibility and transparency with patients.
  • Telehealth usage will continue post-pandemic whether alone or integrated with in-person services: Twenty-five (25) percent of Chicago respondents stated that they would utilize telehealth services over in-person visits after the current pandemic ends. Thirty-seven (37) percent of respondents would take a mixed approach to access health care services, integrating both in-person visits (for more involved issues) and telehealth for basic follow-up visits. Although convenience and access to health care will be a constant concern post-COVID-19, telehealth will continue to be a channel for patients to access health care services.
  • Healthcare providers face multiple challenges in providing thorough quality of care and appropriate “bedside manner” through telehealth: Approximately 26% of respondents over 65 years of age indicated that they would “never” opt for telehealth over in-person visits due to concerns around overall quality of care and provision of services. (Accessibility is also a key issue, as one respondent indicated that telehealth is “pointless” for people who are deaf or have specific hearing issues). Understanding the nature of challenges for telehealth adoption can provide providers an opportunity to gain insight into ensuring a more “personal” touch and overall quality of care.
  • Generational differences provide some insight into attitudes and behaviors towards telehealth adoption. Twenty-six (26) percent of respondents over the age of 65 reported that they would never choose telehealth over in-person visits while fifteen (15) percent would schedule more in-person appointments after the pandemic due to lack of interpersonal contact. Although more respondents indicated a greater trend towards frequently checking their out-of-pocket expenses, the number of Gen Z respondents who felt “in control” of their health care dropped by 15 percentage points. Gen Z respondents were more likely to have lost health insurance as well as engage in telehealth.

Telehealth services are reshaping health care access and delivery as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although health care providers are learning to adjust to these changes, understanding and adopting more effective strategies can ensure the quality of care and satisfaction for people and communities to stay healthy.

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