Global: How the public feel about telehealth

Christien PhebySenior Business Journalist
June 29, 2021, 3:47 PM GMT+0

Coronavirus has increased pressure on healthcare services around the world – and made seeking routine medical attention a riskier and more complicated prospect. While “telehealth” – seeking treatment for medical problems from a distance – existed before the pandemic, the global crisis has perhaps made it a more relevant option for those who need care.

But do people actually want to call their doctor, as opposed to seeing them in-person? The answer varies, depending where in the world a patient lives.

Across all markets in our study, the proportion who are comfortable seeking healthcare over the phone is slightly less than two in five (38%). There, is, however, significant variance: In the UAE (58%) and India (56%), for example, approaching three in five members of the public would be comfortable talking to their doctor or nurse practitioner over the phone; in Poland (23%), France (25%) and Sweden (25%), it’s around a quarter.

There is a correlation between fear of catching coronavirus and willingness to speak to a doctor or nurse over the phone. Data from YouGov’s COVID-19 Public Monitor shows that well over half of the public in the two nations where people are most likely to be comfortable with telehealth – the UAE (56%) and Indonesia (77%) – are afraid of contracting the virus. In France (38%) and Sweden (38%), where people are significantly less afraid, they are significantly less likely to be at ease using a telephone health service (25% in both).

This indicates that some of the current appetite for telehealth may be in part transitory: as the pandemic eases, more people may wish to visit their doctor in person. Nonetheless, there is enough desire for these services that providers may benefit if they make it easier for patients to have phone consultations in the short and long-term.

Methodology: The data is based on the interviews of adults aged 18 and over in 17 markets with sample sizes varying between 511 and 2,093 for each market. All interviews were conducted online in May 2021. Data from each market uses a nationally representative sample apart from Mexico and India, which use urban representative samples, and Indonesia and Hong Kong, which use online representative samples.

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