KEY TAKEAWAY: Consumers interested in virtual health represent a significant share of the total US population—68 percent of respondents under age 65 said they were somewhat or very interested in receiving healthcare virtually. These respondents include millennials and baby boomers, many of whom are also caring for the health and other needs of both children and aging parents.
Virtual health is in demand by consumers, patients, but it’s important to understand the key driver which is, according to Accenture, convenience.
We have become consumers who value time above all else and consumers don’t have the time or the patience to make an appointment, wait weeks to meet with their doctor and take 2-3 hours off work or from their schedule to “ask for a refill” or get what they view as “routine” medical care.
HCP’s haven’t helped. They often go from patient to patient trying, in between, to remember the patient’s history. This comes at a time when we are all seeing bigger deductions from our paychecks for health insurance, which in turn leads us to ask “what am I paying for?”.
Although there are some uses for virtual health there are dangers for both patients and HCP’s. Patients, for example, may be reluctant to discuss embarrassing symptoms or talk in depth about their health issues leading to a possible misdiagnosis. HCP’s on the other hand worry about being compensated for their time and legal issues involved with prescribing a medication virtually without fully being able to diagnose a patient.
There are some health services which could easily be provided virtually but we can’t and shouldn’t get into a healthcare system where everything is just an online consult followed by an Rx. Will physicians have the luxury of treating the whole person rather than the condition or will business pressures force them to go from room to room and view conditions that can be treated simply by writing an Rx?
Pharma cannot wait on the sidelines for this trend to gain traction. They need to be thinking NOW about how pharma enters the virtual health relationship without trying too hard to sell or be intrusive.