March 14 (UPI) -- When it comes to getting healthcare, people seem to prefer convenience over face-to-face doctor's office visits, a new study suggests.
About 90 percent of telehealth patients talk to doctors over video chat versus making in-person visits when the option exists, according to a study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. Nearly half of those patients say they couldn't visit the doctor in-person because the office was closed or there were no appointments available.
Telehealth allows doctors to provide video visits, which takes away the need for people to travel long distances and sit in waiting rooms to receive medical advice.
"People are interested in convenience and the health care system and primary care need to adapt to technology and also patient preferences. If we don't adapt it's a missed opportunity," Winston Liaw, chairman of the University of Houston Department of Health Systems and Population Health Sciences and study lead author, said in a news release.
Anthem Blue Cross surveyed people who used their telemedicine platform, called LiveHealth Online, and found users were less likely to have primary care physicians. This suggests they preferred convenience over face-to-face physician connections.
"Video visit platforms have their own electronic health records that may or may not communicate with the broader healthcare system," Liaw said. "We have two systems operating in parallel that are completely distinct silos that have very little communication between them. We need to watch this closely."
Telehealth users tend to be more educated and affluent city-dwellers, the study says. Now the researchers want to make the service more accessible to people in poorer communities.
"We hope this is a wake up call for our healthcare system where we will embrace the access benefit of telehealth and balance it with coordinated care," Liaw said.