Indianapolis, IN — “The doctor will see you now” has traditionally been followed by a walk down an antiseptic-smelling hallway, with a quick stop at the scale on your way to the paper gown. But today, it could mean your phone’s camera is about to light up, your email is about to ding, or even that you’re moments away from meeting a few new friends. All these new points of care are changing what it means to support doctors as they educate and motivate their patients.
More and more physicians are offering shared medical appointments. They can include a few patients or up to 16 people who share the same chronic condition. Generally, each person gets a short private exam and then they come together to discuss results and feedback as a group.
For doctors, the visits are just more efficient. Where they once spent hours and hours of the day explaining the same procedure or needed behavior change to patient after patient, they now have just a few, deeper conversations. For patients, the group interaction is more powerful. They learn from listening to questions from others in the group and connect around shared experiences.
The number of practices offering the group visits doubled in just five years.
Doctors On Demand
Nearly one million families used video consultations with physicians last year. That number is expected to explode in the next few years:
The consumer preference for video connections with doctors over phone calls is staggering. American Well, one of the leading providers of telehealth, reported that 94% of its customers chose video over telephone. This isn’t a trend limited to young families: American Well’s core customer base includes the US Department of Veterans Affairs, Rite Aid, United Healthcare, WellPoint and various Blues plans.
Mobile may have been the tipping point for the switch. A quick click of a camera phone is infinitely easier to figure out than installing a webcam ever was. In that same report, American Well calculated that 60% of its customers used their smartphone or tablet for their video visits.
The overall reach of telehealth has grown substantially. As of late last year, 28% of broadband households in the United Stated had used some type of online healthcare communications, many had used it multiple times. Even many non-users are open to the shift. Parks Associates found that 51% of people who haven’t used telehealth are comfortable with the idea of communicating with physicians using online tools and 80% of those cite time saved as one of the main incentives to start.
The trend has been slowly growing year over year. Today almost half of doctors are emailing with their patients. Smaller groups are connecting with them in even shorter ways – like text and instant messaging.
A recent study from Kantar Media found that nurse practitioners are even more likely than doctors to reach out to their patients in the inbox.
Interestingly, these interactions are truly incremental, supportive healthcare. In a retrospective study of 2,357, the Mayo Clinic found that there was no significant change in the frequency of office visits for patients who connected with their doctors via the network’s electronic messaging system.
Posted by: Leigh Householder