Patients are in the midst of a telehealth love affair, which offers many growth opportunities for doctors in private practice.
Now, it’s time to drill down into telehealth usage statistics to help us understand telehealth adoption rates and satisfaction levels to create a clear picture of how telemedicine is changing Australian healthcare.
Telehealth Overview 2020 - 2021
- Australia hit 40 million telehealth consultations by November 2020.
- 10 million telehealth services had been delivered to 3.2 million Australians in regional, rural and remote areas by November 2020.
- 25% of all MBS consultations were through telehealth from March 2020 -March 2021.
- In March 2021, 93% of MBS telehealth consultations were by phone with just 7% by video.
- 56 million MBS telehealth services were delivered to 13.6 million patients with over $2.9 billion Medicare benefits paid from March 2020 - April 2021.
- More than 83,540 providers now offer telehealth services.
Practitioners and Telehealth
In what many describe as a forced adoption, healthcare professionals began using telehealth, often for the first time, to maintain access to healthcare during the COVID-19 lockdown.
It was a paradigm shift for many, carried out during a time of intense pressure.
- 99% of GPs now offer telehealth services, according to the RACGP.
- In Victoria, GP telephone consultations increased from 0 per week in 2019 to a median of 95,357 per week in 2020 while video consults increased from 38 to 2,540.
- In NSW, GP telephone consultations increased from 0 per week in 2019 to a median of 42,850 per week in 2020 while video consultations increased from 4 per week to 805.
- Coviu research shows that just 3% of GPs offered video telehealth in the last 12 months.
- Of GPs who use video, 19% say they find it more personal, 26% say it helps them assess the patient, and 18% say it aids them in undertaking a physical exam.
How many practitioners will keep using telehealth? That’s hard to say but ongoing telehealth is being strongly encouraged by professional groups like the AMA and the RACGP. Telehealth is here to stay.
Patient Satisfaction Levels With Telehealth
Patient demand will fuel ongoing telehealth provision. Patients certainly want to continue telehealth consultations. They love it.
- The ABS says 30% of people prefer using online health services more now, compared to before the pandemic.
- According to Coviu stats, 70% of Australians believe GPs should offer video telehealth (though 41.5% say their GP doesn’t offer it).
- Coviu’s research shows that:
- 90.2% of Australians believe video telehealth saves time.
- 66.7% believe video telehealth makes healthcare more accessible.
- 72% believe video telehealth is comparable to in-person care.
- 15% believe video telehealth is better than in-person care.
- ABS data paints a similar picture of telehealth satisfaction levels among people who had used telehealth in the four weeks before April 2021:
- 63% said it was convenient.
- 42% said it saved time.
- 38% said telehealth saved them the hassle of travel.
What of telehealth’s future?
Many of its drivers will remain with us. For the next little while, Australians may still experience sudden lockdowns, necessitating telehealth provision.
Rates of chronic disease continue to rise, meaning some patients need regular medical appointments – made much simpler to access through telehealth.
And there’s been an exodus from the major cities due to COVID-19, meaning more Australians are choosing a country lifestyle that will, at some point, make telehealth access to city specialists very appealing.
- 49% of Australians are likely to use telehealth in the future.
- 44% of Aussies would switch GPs to one that offers video telehealth (does your practice?).