ACHP, AMCP Survey: Telehealth, Trust in Doctors, Desire for COVID-19 Testing All Get High Marks

June 5, 2020

Survey of over 1,000 people shows that use of telehealth has tripled.

Telehealth use nearly tripled, trust in physicians as a source of information about COVID-19 is high, and almost two out every three Americans want to be tested for the SARS-CoV-2, according to online, invitation-only survey conducted on behalf of the Alliance of Community Health Plans (ACHP) and the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP).

“It is telling how quickly people adjusted to virtual care,” says Ceci Connolly, president and CEO of ACHP. “It is high time we delivered care when and where people wanted it.”

Susan Cantrell, CEO of AMCP, says it was a relief to see that the survey shows that pharmacy usage remained strong - 46% of the respondents indicated that they had gotten prescription medications in the last 90 days, and 90% had gotten their medications from a local pharmacy. Consistent with most other reports, 41% of the respondents said they had delayed getting healthcare services.

The survey, conducted by Leede Research, included 1,263 adults, ages 18-74. It was conducted in early May, so the survey captures usage patterns and attitudes that might have changed somewhat in the intervening weeks. Still, the results lend some credence to some of the prevailing wisdom about how American have responded to the COVID-19 outbreak and how healthcare system might adjust as a result

For example, 28% of the respondents said they had used telehealth in the last 90 days, a tripling of the single-digit proportion in the past. Moreover, 89% had a good experience - they indicated on the survey that they were satisfied or very satisfied with the experience - and just under half (46%) said they were comfortable using telehealth. App developers and promoters still have a hill to climb: Only 11% had used a smartphone to manage a condition

A big part of the reason that telehealth took off is that CMS loosened payment rules for telehealth visits, and many commercial insurers followed suit. Some experts have raised concerns that telehealth could lead to overuse. Meanwhile, some providers are worried utilization of in-person medical services bouncing back, and telehealth displacing those services. Connolly says her organization, which includes plans such as Geisinger and UPMC that are part of health system, has a broader vision of value-based care model. “It is a model,” she says, “that can absolutely accommodate telehealth.”

The survey results underscore that doctors still are trusted sources of information at a time when many other institutions and professions are held in low regard. When asked about whom they trust for reliable information about the coronavirus, 58% said they trust their own doctor and 47% said state government, an indication of the important role governors have played in the response to the outbreak. Health plans (27%), the national media (25%), pharmacists (24%) were trusted by a similar proportion of the respondents. Bringing up the rear were the federal government (18%), employers (13%), and medication providers (12%).

Well over a majority (64%) of the respondents indicated they would like to be tested for the coronavirus. It would be interesting to know whether that proportion has changed since the beginning of May and now.
Most (69%) of the respondents said they would be comfortable being tested in their doctor’s office - no surprise there, given the trust factor. But a sizable percentage (39%) indicated that would be comfortable getting tested at their pharmacy. Cantrell notes that testing services would be “kind of paradigm shift” for many pharmacies that are geared toward dispensing prescription dedications and selling over-the-counter medications and some consumer goods. On May 19, HHS issued an advisory opinion that affirmed that Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act effective supercedes any state-level rules that would prohibit licensed pharmacists from testing for COVID-19.