What are the social determinants of telehealth use?

Learn how telehealth usage changes by age, geography, income, and other demographic factors.
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Dr. Lulu Lee
Lee, PhD

Vice President, Health Division

Tom Haskell

Global Head of Data Analytics, Health Division

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Although telehealth use within the United States has gradually increased over the past three years, the COVID-19 pandemic has driven exponential growth. We analysed socioeconomic data — including generational use, employment status, and race/ ethnicity — with the help of our award-winning Claritis™ data product, to identify various trends in the use of telehealth.

Who is using telehealth?

Our study indicated that the percentage of people using telehealth for healthcare visits increased by over 3,000%, from February to April. While the gradual reopening of medical offices throughout the country will likely cause a decrease in the use of telehealth for medical visits, Kantar believes that even after the numbers stabilise, they will still be appreciably higher than the pre-lockdown percentages.

Telehealth use based on population

We divided the populations using telehealth for their medical needs by age and saw a definite correlation between age and telehealth use. In one week in April, 53.4% of Generation Z (between age 18 and 24) used the technology for healthcare visits, whereas only 20.6% of patients aged 65 and older used telehealth. Patients aged 45 and 64 and those between ages 25 and 44 used the service 33% and 35.6%, respectively.

Telehealth use based on location

Regionally within the United States, during the week of April 20:

  • The West saw a 23.8% increase
  • The Midwest saw a 27.4% increase
  • The South saw a 27.8% increase
  • The Northeast saw a 38% increase

Telehealth use based on employment status and income

While the results did not surprise us, the numbers are indicative of additional socioeconomic disparity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Full- and part-time workers showed a higher usage of telehealth at 33.9% and 35.3% respectively; unemployed people used it 25.3%. Lower-income patients relied on telehealth 28.9%, middle-income patients used it 30% of the time, and high-income patients used it 31% of the time.

Telehealth use based on ethnicity

Our research uncovered an unexpected trend for race and ethnicity, showing that Hispanic populations used telehealth the most, at 37.5% versus non-Hispanic whites (28.4%) and non-Hispanic blacks (29.7%), and other ethnicities (31.1%).  We hypothesise that the trend may result from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) that has enabled Hispanics to more easily access healthcare. Additional research is required to more fully explore this finding.

The future of telehealth

We cannot yet conclude how telehealth use will influence the health of the United States’ population, but we believe its increased use will also positively affect patients’ usage and their abilities to follow therapies prescribed by physicians. Kantar plans to continue monitoring the trends in telehealth and examine how its application affects patient utilisation and compliance with drugs and therapies.

To answer questions about whether social determinants of telehealth affect disease management, outcomes/ treatment patterns, and costs within the healthcare system, Kantar will continue to trace its socioeconomic impact.

These factors, and the specific methods by which we conducted our research, are discussed in our white paper, “Social Determinants of telehealth.” Complete the form below to gain access.

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