Young people ‘embrace’ telehealth with their GPs

Morgan Liotta

28/10/2020 3:56:15 PM

Before COVID, only 3% of Australians had participated in a telehealth consultation – now 73% do – and it’s mostly young people.

Young man looking at phone
Almost half of all younger people say they would prefer telehealth over face-to-face consultations post-pandemic.

The 2020 CommBank GP Insights Report, a collaboration with medical education provider HealthCert, reveals a significant increase of Australians reporting they have either accessed telehealth, or are open to it, since the pandemic hit.
Patients from younger generations are embracing telehealth faster than their older counterparts – and reporting the most positive experience. The report found that more than a third of Gen Z and Y patients believe ongoing access to telehealth would enable them to visit their GP more often.
The expansion of telehealth, its subsequent extension and widespread adoption by healthcare providers, has allowed patients to access safe, convenient and efficient healthcare during the pandemic.
Despite findings from an RACGP June 2020 survey that most GPs felt they needed more training in telehealth, over 90% of general practices adopted telehealth within the early months of the pandemic. Pre-COVID, only 19% of general practices offered telehealth services.
Following Medicare Benefits Schedule changes to support telehealth items in response to the pandemic, more than 95% of general practices now offer telehealth services.
The Insights report reveals that of the 73% of patients now accessing or willing to access telehealth, 34% have used some form of telehealth since the onset of the pandemic.
Better access (23%) and faster access (20%) to GPs, as well as assisting in reducing personal costs of managing health (15%) are patients’ most positive perceptions of telehealth.
Around 27% of Australians have actively avoided face-to-face consultations with their doctor for fears of risk of contracting COVID-19 – also contributing to the surge in telehealth consultations.
For those who still prefer to visit their GP in person, older Australians make up the majority.
Compared to younger generations surveyed, only 19% of baby boomers and 14% of pre-boomers avoided GP visits in the early months of the pandemic.
The Insights report’s age-dependent survey results are based on the following patient samples:

  • Pre-boomers  –  people aged over 72
  • Baby boomers ­– people aged 54–72
  • Gen X – people aged 38–53
  • Gen Y/Z – people aged 18–37
Almost half (44%) of Gen Z reported they had actively avoided visiting a general practice since the start of the pandemic due to COVID-19 fears, and 31% of Gen X are of the same mind.
Most patients expect telehealth consultations to be either bulk-billed or out-of-pocket costs to be less than face-to-face consultations. The Insights report suggests a need to further educate patients about the value of telehealth.
‘Greater awareness of the availability of telehealth is also warranted, given 43% of patients either believe it isn’t available or are unsure,’ the report states.
However, the report highlights that overall, patients have responded positively to the way general practices have managed the pandemic and adopted telehealth.
Over half (52%) of those surveyed reported they were ‘very satisfied’ with the practice experience, 45% were ‘somewhat satisfied’ and only 3% were ‘dissatisfied’.
Post-pandemic, younger generations still rank highest in having a preference for telehealth consultations over face-to-face. Forty-one per cent of Gen Y patients and 35% of Gen X would prefer telehealth over face-to-face consultations.
Overall, 31% of all patients say they would prefer telehealth consultations even when the pandemic is over.
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Dr Graham James Lovell   29/10/2020 9:23:35 AM

My query on Telehealth looking into the future is the inevitable Litigation consequences.
Has anyone considered and calculated the almost guaranteed increase in claims against Medical Practitioners ?
How much will our premiums increase, and is the Federal Government prepared to compensate Doctors for this into the future?
Anyone who believes that Telehealth can consistently be as thorough and reliable as Face to Face consulting is unrealistic.
No physical examination, hearing impairment, disruption of written instructions or Handouts are the obvious reasons, but undoubtedly there are other issues as well.