Patients and Practitioners Agree – Telehealth Is Important for Patient Access, Health Care Workforce

April 6, 2022

WASHINGTON – Today, the Alliance for Connected Care released a major survey of both healthcare patients and practitioners conducted by Morning Consult on the Alliance’s behalf. The poll asked patients and practitioners about their telehealth usage, telehealth experiences, their use of care across state lines, and the workforce implications of these developments.

  • A slide deck summarizing the findings can be found here.
  • An Alliance infographic of key selected data points can be found here.
  • A printable version of the infographic can be found here.

“This is the first time we have polled both patients and providers, and they are aligned on the merits of telehealth,” said Krista Drobac, Executive Director of the Alliance for Connected Care. “I am particularly excited to see practitioners reporting that telehealth is a tool to fight clinical burnout and to see such strong support from patients for access to care across state lines.”

“Effective access to telehealth is essential to improving America’s health care future. The findings of this research reinforce what we have experienced, which is telehealth makes health care easier for patients, and also provides flexibility and opportunities for balance for health care providers, said Brian Hasselfeld, MD, Medical Director, Digital Health and Telemedicine, Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Regulatory and policy changes that preserve these flexibilities, and address barriers such as restrictions on care across state lines, will be important for our patients and health care workforce going forward.”

“Clinicians at Stanford have experienced firsthand the benefits of telehealth for their patients, and we are not surprised to see these results – showing that the overwhelming majority of clinicians and patients support the option to engage in telehealth across state lines,” said Christopher (Topher) Sharp, MD, Chief Medical Information Officer for Stanford Health Care. “Telehealth has been a critical access point, particularly for specialty care which is in such short supply across the US.”

Notable findings of the poll:

The experience with telehealth is positive for both patients and providers

  • Almost 3 in 4 of the general population “strongly agree” or “somewhat agree” that patients should have the option to receive telehealth, even after the pandemic. Among recent telehealth patients, this proportion increases to 84%.
  • Three quarters of health care providers surveyed say they have provided care via telehealth at least once since the pandemic began. Of those surveyed, 91% of practitioners say telehealth has allowed for greater flexibility to meet the needs of both patients and health care practitioners.
  • 91% of health care practitioners also agree that they should continue to have the option to deliver virtual care after the pandemic.

Patients and providers both believe telehealth is increasing access to health care when needed
Telehealth has been a crucial tool to expand the capabilities of the health care system during COVID-19, yet challenges remain. Telehealth may help to address soaring behavioral health needs, meet patients in their homes, and reduce health care wait times for patients. Accordingly –

  • 96% of health care practitioners say that telehealth makes health care more accessible for patients.
  • 89% of health care practitioners say telehealth is valuable for reaching vulnerable patients.
  • 73% of practitioners believe telehealth improves the overall quality of care.
  • 66% of adults believe that telehealth will make patients more likely to seek health care when they need it.
  • 84% of recent telehealth patients say they have personally benefited from the option to receive care though telehealth.

Both patients and providers support telehealth across state lines
During the COVID-19 pandemic, all 50 states expanded the ability for practitioners to practice across state lines – expanding health care provider capacity and increasing access for patients. Strong support exists for policies to expand opportunities to give and receive care across state lines:

  • One in five practitioners surveyed have provided health care services across state lines under a waiver since the pandemic began.
  • 84% of health care practitioners support the option to provide telehealth across state lines.
  • Over 8 in 10 telehealth patients also support the option to receive telehealth services from health care practitioners across state lines, suggesting that those who have received care via telehealth in the past view their experiences favorably.
  • Health care providers expect that state actions to end broad access to care across state lines has had or will have a net negative impact on a variety of indicators:
    • 64% say reducing cross-state care will reduce patient access to health care.
    • 56% say reducing cross-state care will have a negative effect on health outcomes.

Telehealth is the key to supporting and retaining the health care workforce
Challenges with health care provider burnout are widely reported – and many health care institutions are struggling to recruit and retain the expertise needed to serve patients. Meanwhile – practitioners report that telehealth, and the ability to provide care from a range of locations when clinically appropriate, are a crucial tool to reduce these challenges. The polling found:

  • 78% of health care practitioners agree that retaining the option to provide virtual care from a location convenient to the practitioner would “significantly reduce the challenges of stress, burnout, or fatigue” facing their profession.
  • As a result, 8 in 10 practitioners say that retaining telehealth for health care practitioners would make them, personally, more likely to continue working in a role with such flexibility.
  • 93% of health care practitioners agree they should have the opportunity to provide telehealth services from their home when clinically appropriate.
  • 79% of health care practitioners and 84% of telehealth patients support allowing nurse practitioners to provide care to the full extent of their education and licensure, including through telehealth.

These findings have far-ranging implications for policymakers at both the state and federal levels. The Alliance for Connected Care looks forward to working with policymakers in these endeavors to improve the health and well being of all Americans.