Seeing your doctor for an appointment through your phone sounds like something you would see straight out of a Jetsons television show. However, with new options that are being made available for patients to get instant help from medical professionals, you don’t have to be in a futuristic cartoon show in order to see your doctor virtually,

New and emerging options for healthcare services are being offered online, including interactions with doctors and other healthcare providers through personal computers, smartphone and tablet apps, and other means. Such interactions are often referred to as “virtual visits,” and according to newly released data from The Harris Poll, Americans seem ready to consider making use of it – under the right conditions.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,537 U.S. adults surveyed online between August 13 and 18, 2014. (Full results, including data tables, available here)

  • Nearly eight in ten Americans (78%) would consider seeing a healthcare professional virtually for at least one healthcare need, though not all needs seem to transition equally to this method.
  • Nearly half (47%) would see a healthcare professional virtually to discuss the effectiveness of regularly used prescriptions, while roughly four in ten each would do so to diagnose cold or flu-like symptoms (43%) or for a consultation regarding allergies (39%).
  • Just over a third would consider opting to have a general wellness visit, regular checkup or preventative services (36%) or a regular checkup regarding regularly monitored biometrics (35%) virtually.
  • Just under a third would consider doing so to diagnose a rash (32%) or for one-time screening or lab services, such as blood sugar testing (30%).
  • Roughly a fourth would consider this avenue for a regular checkup regarding a chronic condition (27%), to discuss a more urgent need regarding a chronic condition (26%), or to discuss treatment options of a sensitive nature (24%).
  • Americans are least likely to consider this a viable alternative for discussing treatment options for a life-threatening condition (18%), or for psychological or psychiatric consultations (with 22% saying they’d consider doing either a one-time or regular session virtually).

There tends to be an expectation that technological adoption rates are generally stronger among younger Americans than among their elders. This does ring true for many healthcare needs, with matures less likely than any other generation to say they’d consider either discussing treatment options of a sensitive nature (27% Millennials, 25% Gen Xers, 24% Baby Boomers and 12% Matures) or receiving psychological or psychiatric aid, whether in the form of a regular session (29%, 23%, 19% and 10%, respectively) or a one-time consultation (29%, 21%, 21% and 8%, respectively).

However, the inverse is true for some services as well. Matures (57%) and Baby Boomers (52%) are more likely than Gen Xers (44%) or Millennials (42%) to say they’d consider discussing the effectiveness of regularly used prescriptions virtually, along with being more likely than Millennials to consider this option for one-time screening or lab services, such as blood sugar testing (34% each Matures and Baby Boomers vs. 25% Millennials).

Not with just any doctor – and not for just any patient
Seven in ten Americans (70%) would be comfortable with a virtual checkup if it was with their own doctor or healthcare professional, while only about half as many (36%) would be comfortable having a virtual checkup with a doctor or healthcare professional they have not met in person.

Only three in ten Americans (31%) could consider letting their child see a healthcare professional virtually; this increases to just over four in ten (42%) among those who currently live in households with children.

  • Younger Americans appear more comfortable with both virtual consultations with a doctor or healthcare professional they’ve not met in person (42% Millennials, 40% Gen Xers, 31% Baby Boomers, 21% Matures) and letting their child see a healthcare provider virtually (37%, 36%, 28% and 17%, respectively).

Benefits and concerns
Nearly three-fourths of Americans (73%) believe that virtually monitoring or checking up on chronic conditions could help reduce hospital readmission rates; however, nearly two-thirds (65%) indicate that they’d have less faith in a diagnosis from a virtual consultation than an in-person one.

  • Diagnosis concerns are strongest among Matures, who are more likely than any other generation to say they’d have reduced faith in a virtual diagnosis (77% Matures vs. 63% each for Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials).

What’s more, majorities of Americans believe virtual healthcare consultations could make it easier for both healthcare practitioners (67%) and consumers (62%) to commit insurance fraud.

The question of cost
Americans seem to have an expectation that virtual consultations represent an opportunity to cut cost, with only 36% feeling doctors should be compensated the same amount for virtual appointments as for in-person ones; fewer still (28%) feel patients should be charged the same amount for virtual appointments as for in-person ones.


Virutal Doctor Visits Are Now Available