Ann Arbor, MI – A new study in Gastroenterology, Patients with Gastrointestinal Conditions Consider Telehealth Equivalent to In-person Care, shows that patients received a similar quality of care via telehealth compared to in-person visits and expressed a willingness to continue using telehealth due to ease of scheduling, increased flexibility, and shorter wait and/or travel times. The study is the first gastroenterology research paper to use a Net Promoter Score to determine patient satisfaction with GI health care services.
Among 5,234 patients from eight independent GI practices who participated in at least one telehealth visit with a GI provider within the past year, the net promoter score overall was 21, indicating a good quality of service with room for improvement. Additionally, patients under 60 years of age rated their telehealth visit with an NPS of 39, while employed patients gave telehealth an NPS of 35.
“Our research overwhelmingly shows that patients believe telehealth is beneficial to their health care. We also found that telehealth increases access to care by decreasing travel time, limiting missed workdays, and reducing the need to find alternative caregivers,” said Dr. Naresh Gunaratnam, president & CEO and director of clinical research at Huron Gastroenterology. “It also appears that telehealth promotes the triple aim of improving health care by improving the care experience, reducing cost, and improving patient and population health outcomes.”
According to the study, higher satisfaction with telehealth visits were associated with employed patients, video-use, and a lack of technical difficulties. Patients who are over 60 years-old and retired express a preference for in-person care, while younger and employed patients preferred telehealth. While technical problems are often perceived as barriers to the full implementation of telehealth, the study found that technical disruptions were relatively infrequent and were often easily resolved.
“The widespread adoption of telehealth is one of few silver linings of the Covid epidemic. It will never replace in-person visits but should be preserved and reimbursed in some capacity as an additional tool we can use when in-person visits are not the best option,” said Dr. Gunaratnam. “Congress must act to preserve and expand coverage of telehealth services, or healthcare providers will eventually lose the flexibility telehealth gives us to meet the needs of our patients.”
The study was conducted through an online survey to patients of eight private GI practices that are members of the Digestive Health Physicians Association, between January and April 2021. The survey assessed patient sociodemographic characteristics, general satisfaction with telehealth services and compared to previous office visits.
The study used the Net Promoter Score (NPS) to objectively assess the patient experience. This single-question tool asks how likely one would be to recommend a service to family or friends on a scale from 0-10. A rating of 9-10 signifies a “promoter” while a rating of 0-6 is indicative of a “detractor”; scores of 7-8 are considered neutral. The NPS is then determined by calculating the difference between the percentage of promoters and detractors. An NPS more than zero is indicative of a positive customer experience. The Net Promoter Score was developed by Fred Reichheld, a partner at Bain & Company, in 2003.
An previous study of more than 500 gastroenterologists and nearly 1500 patients from March to May 2020 demonstrated that more than 80 percent of patients and 90 percent of physicians surveyed were either satisfied or highly satisfied with telehealth. Greater than 80 percent of patients also indicated that they were willing to participate in telehealth visits in the future.