While telemedicine was introduced during the height of the pandemic, it has become widely adopted by healthcare practices worldwide even today. Although thousands of patients have already seen the benefits that telemedicine can bring, some are still hesitant to adopt the technology. So, what’s the reason for this resistance?
We’ll discuss the most common reasons patients resist telemedicine and how practices can overcome patient objections. In doing so, both patients and practices can benefit from the efficiency, convenience, and accessibility that telemedicine delivers.
1. Prefer face-to-face visits
One of the most significant objections patients have to adopt telemedicine is that they prefer face-to-face visits over virtual ones. Many patients feel that they will miss out on a connection with their provider or receive less attention without a face-to-face visit. While 36% of respondents in a survey claimed this preference, none of these patients had ever utilized telemedicine.
Many patients make the mistake of believing that if they transition to telemedicine, they will never have another face-to-face visit again, when that isn’t true. For certain situations in healthcare, face-to-face visits are required. When patients need tests or scans, they must come into the office for their appointment. Telemedicine is designed not to replace in-person visits entirely but reduce the need for tedious routine visits.
Consider if a patient needs an annual check-up or a prescription refill. Rather than driving across town (or further for some patients), patients can simply meet with their provider virtually, saving them significant time. If a patient has a concern that requires face-to-face care, they can utilize their telemedicine platform to make an appointment.
Just because patients transition to telemedicine doesn't mean that they suddenly receive no attention from their provider or have no personal connection with them. In reality, telemedicine makes communication between providers and patients easier and more efficient, resulting in improved patient care.
If your patients are using this objection as a reason to avoid telemedicine, consider walking them through what a virtual visit looks like. The odds are that once they experience it, they will see the benefits. It can also help to clarify that telemedicine isn’t altogether replacing face-to-face visits but rather serves as a supplement to traditional healthcare.
2. Lack of familiarity with telemedicine
Another common objection to telemedicine is that patients are not familiar with it and are hesitant to try something new. This is a common concern with any technology, particularly for older and less tech-savvy patients. It makes sense that with something as important as medicine, patients are reluctant to utilize an unfamiliar platform.
Fortunately, telemedicine platforms are designed with user experience in mind and are fairly straightforward to use. Still, it can be helpful to walk patients through your telemedicine platform to ensure that they are familiar and comfortable with it. Practices may consider helping patients register for their platform and walk them through its basic services.
An excellent way to improve familiarity with a telemedicine platform is to perform a virtual visit with patients while they are in the office. In doing so, patients can ask questions and become familiar with the platform in a comfortable environment. Patients can also use this time to look through the platform and discover other services such as appointment scheduling, direct messaging, and a library of resources. With a simple introduction, patients will immediately become comfortable with what once was an unfamiliar technology.
3. Concerns about privacy
As with any technology, privacy is a concern. Everywhere you turn in the news today, there are reports of cybersecurity attacks and breaches. For patients concerned about their healthcare data security, these fears are valid, but they can be addressed. Many patients fear that if all of their health records are digitized, they are suddenly vulnerable online.
While this is true to some extent, patient records are actually more secure when stored in a telemedicine platform. When converted to electronic health records (EHR), patient data is safe from the loss or damage that often occurs with physical records. Instead, data is securely stored in an online database, where access is limited only to the patient and authorized physicians. Plus, when health data is digitized, it is much easier to store, share, and access (by those with permission) than traditional health records.
It is just as important to providers that patient information is secure as it is to patients. For this reason, healthcare practices take telemedicine security extremely seriously and implement the right security measures to protect sensitive data. Fortunately, most telemedicine platforms have such security measures, ensuring that patient data stays in the right hands.
4. Distrust of virtual providers
Similar to concerns of being unfamiliar with telemedicine, patients may be reluctant to embrace telemedicine due to distrust of virtual providers. For many patients utilizing telemedicine, they are simply transitioning to meet with their long-term provider face-to-face to virtually. As such, they are already familiar with and trusting of their provider - this is not a concern.
Where the concern lies is when patients are meeting with providers that they have not met or worked with before. One of the greatest benefits of a telemedicine platform is its global network of providers and patients. Each patient gains access to a global network of providers, connecting them with experts across the world. This allows patients to get the help they need no matter their geographic location. That being said, patients often do not know these providers, and some do not trust them.
Fortunately, most telemedicine platforms carefully build their network of providers. These providers are not just anyone but an intentionally cultivated list of qualified and experienced physicians. Essentially, the platform serves as a vetting process for physicians. And, with so many options, if a patient is uncertain of one provider, they have hundreds more to choose from.
5. Concerns about cost
Many patients factor in cost when considering making the transition to telemedicine. There is no question that healthcare can be expensive, and too many patients have learned this the hard way. As such, many assume that because telemedicine is a new and advanced technology, it will be expensive.
In reality, the opposite is true. For many telemedicine platforms, it is free to make a patient account. Once a healthcare practice decides to adopt a telemedicine platform, they are the ones to shoulder the cost, while patients are merely given the opportunity to make an account. In doing so, patients receive a cost-effective way to receive heightened access to an enhanced level of care.
Overcoming Patient Objections
Change can be scary, especially when it applies to a sensitive matter such as healthcare. As such, healthcare providers should be understanding of patient concerns regarding telemedicine. Fortunately, most reasons for patient resistance can be overcome with a simple conversation. By educating patients on the benefits of telemedicine and introducing them to the platform, providers can calm patient concerns.
Taking the time to introduce patients to your telemedicine platform is critical. Once they have opened the door to telemedicine and see that it is not only easy but beneficial to them, most patients will be ready to embrace telemedicine with open arms.