Americans of two minds on virtual visits, remote care

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Many Americans remain skeptical about the prospect of online consultations with their doctors and DIY testing via mobile apps, though men, younger and more affluent people and those with chronic conditions are more receptive.

A survey by Euro RSCG Tonic found that 42% are comfortable with the idea of online consultations and 77% said they'd be open to trying it if it meant greater convenience and less expense. Men, in particular, were gung ho for remote care, with 58% expressing support, compared to only 37% of women. People with chronic conditions were also enthusiastic about remote care, as were employed and college educated respondents, along with those making more than $25,000 a year.

“People with chronic conditions are very interested because it means more contact with their doctor,” said Kate Gill, managing director, strategy at Euro RSCG Tonic. “It's good news that a lot of people are receptive, because they believe it will be more convenient and cost less money.”

Seventy percent of respondents expressed concern about the increasingly crushing ratio of patients to doctors, and the gap between them stands to grow wider still as healthcare reform legislation brings 30 million formerly uninsured people into the system, Gill noted.

Forty-eight percent of respondents said they liked the idea of using mobile apps to run their own tests and check-ups at home, with 77% saying they'd be willing to check their blood pressure and 65% saying they'd be willing to track their symptoms themselves.

It remains to be seen how quickly and deeply technology like virtual visits and remote monitoring will be adopted, though attitudes, not technology, are the obstacles now, said the report's authors.

“A lot will depend on how facile physicians are with technology, and how comfortable they are with it,” said Denise Murtagh, planning director at the agency. “There's a demographic break there.”

Generation X and Y (those 18-45) were much more comfortable with the notion of remote care than were Baby Boomers (46-64) and “Matures (65+),” with 52% of Gen Y respondents and 47% of Gen X respondents rating virtual visits positively, as compared to 39% of Boomers and 33% of Matures.

The internet survey of 1,000 adults found signs of a budding backlash against our techno-inundation. While 80% shrugged off tech-related health concerns like Blackberry Thumb and Computer Vision Syndrome, 48% said they'd like to spend less time with their gadgets and more face time with loved ones.
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