More than HALF of Americans say they would rather visit a doctor in person than telehealth care

The majority of Americans say they prefer a face-to-face doctor visit over telehealth care, a new study suggests.

Researchers from the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit based in Boston, Massachusetts, looked at the responses of more than 3,000 respondents and how they feel about the future of medical care in a post-pandemic world.

They found that while two-thirds of adults said they would at least do some video visits in the future, more than half preferred in-person care over telecare.

Young adults, those with higher incomes, and those with a higher level of education were more likely to prefer video visits, while Black Americans and those in rural areas were more likely to prefer in-person care.

Researchers surveyed more than 3,300 Americans about their views on telehealth versus in-person visits (file image)

Researchers surveyed more than 3,300 Americans about their views on telehealth versus in-person visits (file image)

About two-thirds said they would agree to future video visits, but 53% preferred in-person care (far left) and fewer were willing to switch to video visits if they were cheaper

About two-thirds said they would agree to future video visits, but 53% preferred in-person care (far left) and fewer were willing to switch to video visits if they were cheaper

About two-thirds said they would agree to future video visits, but 53% preferred in-person care (far left) and fewer were willing to switch to video visits if they were cheaper

As the COVID-19 pandemic continued last year, many doctors’ offices closed and switched to phone or video visits to limit the spread of the virus.

However, with face-to-face visits resuming at most practices, the use of telecare appears to be declining as more people opt for face-to-face consultations with their doctor.

For the study, published in JAMA Network Open, the team surveyed 3,391 adults between March 8 and March 19, 2021.

They were asked whether they preferred a personal doctor visit or a video visit for a non-emergency problem.

They were then asked if they would choose their preferred visit if it costs $30 compared to their non-preferred method at $10.

The questions that followed included their experience with telehealth, willingness to use telehealth and their preference for it after the COVID-19 pandemic.

In total, 45 percent indicated that they had had at least one or more video care visits since March 2020.

Researchers found that two-thirds, or 66.5 percent of participants, said they would participate in video doctor visits in the future.

When asked what they prefer, 53 percent said they prefer a personal doctor visit.

Of those who initially said they wanted to visit a doctor’s office, 23.5 percent said they would switch to video if out-of-pocket costs were cheaper.

Young adults, those with higher incomes, and those with higher education were more likely to prefer video visits, while black Americans and adults living in rural areas were more likely to prefer in-person visits (file image)

Young adults, those with higher incomes, and those with higher education were more likely to prefer video visits, while black Americans and adults living in rural areas were more likely to prefer in-person visits (file image)

Young adults, those with higher incomes, and those with higher education were more likely to prefer video visits, while black Americans and adults living in rural areas were more likely to prefer in-person visits (file image)

In comparison, of the participants who initially preferred a video visit, 61.7 percent said they would switch to in-person visits if they were the cheaper option.

Younger adults were more likely to prefer video visits: 25.9 percent of 20- to 39-year-olds preferred telecare, compared with 12.6 percent of those over 60.

In addition, adults with annual incomes over $100,000 preferred video visits at 26.5 percent, compared with 16 percent of those earning less than $35,000 a year.

When it came to racing, black Americans preferred in-person visits the most at 64.1 percent compared to 58.6 percent of Hispanics and 49.3 percent of whites.

In addition, 55.9 percent of those living in rural or small towns with a population of less than 50,000 preferred personal care more, compared with 52.2 percent of those living in cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants.

“In this survey of a nationally representative sample, we found a general willingness to use video visits among US adult respondents,” the authors wrote.

However, when given the choice between a face-to-face visit or a video visit for a non-emergency health problem, participants generally preferred personal care, and those who were younger, had higher incomes and had a higher level of education were more likely to choose video visits.

“This survey study was, to our knowledge, one of the first attempts to explore the value of different visiting modalities in the US population and provide important insights into the role telehealth could play after the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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