We’ve written about the telehealth expansion for several years. Early applications focused on remote patient care, resource-allocation by budget-strained institutions and governments, and patient access to specialists. As telehealth and telemedicine developed, we saw new applications in rehabilitation support, patient compliance, post-surgical care, and remote monitoring for patients with chronic diseases. And then COVID-19 happened.

Travel restrictions and concerns about spreading the virus via in-person meetings boosted telemedicine adoption. San Francisco-based Medallia Institute is a customer and employee experience management company with 15 offices worldwide. Medallia recently published a report, “Patient Experience in the Face of COVID-19.” The report explored all areas of patient experience during the pandemic, with a special focus on telehealth services.

Medallia collected data on patient experience with an online survey of 5,665 patients from all U.S. states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico. The patients had all received in-person medical care in hospitals between January 1 and September 30, 2020. A subset of 1,523 patients from the greater group also had telehealth appointments. Rated on a scale of 0-10, the patients who had telehealth visits rated them on average 8.37, close to the overall 8.46 rating for in-person visits. Breaking those numbers down a bit more, 61% of the patients rated in-person visits a 9 or 10, compared to 58% who rated the telehealth visits 9 or 10.

When Medallia asked the patients with telehealth experience about their preference for future medical services, 51% would prefer in-person visits, 32% would prefer telehealth visits, and 17% stated their preference would depend on factors such as their symptoms and medical conditions. It’s interesting but not surprising to note the survey found the patients’ relationships with medical personnel were the highest-rated factors in patient satisfaction. Most patients accepted the safety precautions around COVID-19 and appreciated the innovations that would protect all parties.

In finding that almost half of the patients in the survey would prefer or were open to telehealth services, Medallia recommends that provider groups should prioritize developing telehealth services that emphasize effective and empathetic communication. U.S. medical care providers had already begun building telehealth services before the pandemic hit. It appears that COVID-19 sped up patient exposure to telemedicine, which will result in even greater acceptance and demand.