2019 Senior Consumer Survey Finds 52 Percent of Americans Ages 65+ are Open to Telehealth

New Medicare Telehealth Reimbursement Rules Present Opportunity to Engage Seniors with Telehealth Programs to Address Health Wants and Needs

BOSTON – June 19, 2019 – Today, from America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) Institute and Expo, in Nashville, Tennessee, national telehealth leader American Well® released findings from its Telehealth Index: 2019 Senior Consumer Survey, a dataset from the company’s broader Consumer Telehealth Index, to be issued later this Summer. Survey results show that 52 percent of Americans, over the age of 65, are willing to use telehealth, with lead motivating factors identified as “faster service,” “time savings/convenience,” “cost savings,” and “better access to healthcare professionals.”


American Well commissioned Harris Poll to conduct an online study among over 2,000 adults to measure usage and sentiments toward telehealth. The results are weighted to be representative of the American adult population across standard demographics. Of the adults surveyed, 20 percent were seniors over the age of 65[i]. Key findings include:

  • More than half of seniors are willing to use telehealth. Despite the fact that current senior utilization of telehealth is low—only one percent of seniors have ever had an online doctor’s visit—52 percent of seniors are willing to have a telehealth visit, meaning that approximately 25 million Americans over the age of 65 are willing to use telehealth.


  • Seniors believe telehealth can deliver faster, more convenient care. Faster healthcare service is identified by 73 percent of seniors as the main driver behind their willingness to use telehealth. Seniors also view telehealth as a way to save time (58 percent) and money (54 percent) and gain better access to providers (53 percent).
  • Prescription renewals and chronic care stand out as seniors’ most valued telehealth services. Of the seniors who are willing to use telehealth, 84 percent said they would use it for prescription renewals and 67 percent of seniors said they were open to using video visits to manage chronic conditions. This is important, as 87 percent of seniors have at least one chronic disease and 68 percent of Medicare beneficiaries have multiple chronic conditions[ii].


  • Barriers to telehealth adoption include reimbursement. A major barrier to adoption for those willing to use telehealth has been reimbursement. Up until the implementation of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) new rules, access to telehealth for seniors has been limited. Starting in plan year 2020, however, telehealth will be reimbursed as part of Medicare Advantage plans. These additional benefits will offer seniors access to virtual doctors in their basic benefit packages, giving them the option to receive healthcare services from places like their home, regardless if they live in rural or urban areas.


  • Senior experience with video calls is surprisingly high, but not for healthcare. 45 percent of Americans, 65+, have participated in video calls – such as FaceTime, Skype or Google Hangout – reinforcing the fact that many seniors are comfortable with technology. What’s more, 25 percent of seniors are currently using a mobile phone health app, and of those, 27 percent are using their health plan’s mobile app.


  • Nearly two-thirds of seniors would go to emergency room for urgent care. More than any other patient age group, seniors said they would go to the emergency room in the middle of the night for an urgent care issue. This increased willingness to use the ER for urgent care suggests there is an opportunity to educate and direct seniors to more appropriate care settings, including telehealth. CMS recently introduced its Emergency Triage, Treat and Transport (ET3) payment model, which will allow ambulances to take seniors to the urgent care center, doctor’s office, or treat them via telehealth instead of sending them to the emergency room. While only in its pilot stage, if adopted nationally this model could save Medicare more than $500 million a year[iii].

“There’s tremendous opportunity to engage and support seniors with telehealth,” said Danielle Russella, President of Health Plan Solutions at American Well. “Supported by a magnitude of compelling forces that in the past have been barriers, issues of access, affordability, and awareness are fading. As the data shows, seniors are incredibly willing to embrace technology for their healthcare needs, which often require more personal, higher touch, coordinated care. This is an exciting time, as both seniors and patients at large, increasingly leverage technology to experience healthcare in the home.”

Added Krista Drobac, Executive Director, Alliance for Connected Care, “As patient populations, including seniors, signal interest in and demand for online video visits with their doctors, it’s time for Congress to act to give broader access to telehealth in the traditional Medicare program. We are pleased that Medicare Advantage plans are now able to include telehealth beginning in January 2020, but all seniors should have the same access to telehealth services.”

For more information, visit www.AmericanWell.com and to access the full Senior Survey Dataset and eBook visit: https://www.americanwell.com/resources/telehealth-index-2019-senior-consumer-survey/


About American Well

American Well is a leading telehealth platform in the United States and globally, connecting and enabling providers, insurers, patients, and innovators to deliver greater access to more affordable, higher quality care. American Well believes that digital care delivery will transform healthcare. The Company offers a single, comprehensive platform to support all telehealth needs from urgent to acute and post-acute care, as well as chronic care management and healthy living. With over a decade of experience, American Well powers telehealth solutions for over 160 health systems comprised of 2,000 hospitals and 55 health plan partners with over 36,000 employers, covering over 150 million lives. For more information, please visit AmericanWell.com.

American Well, Amwell, Digital First and The Exchange are registered trademarks or trademarks of American Well Corporation in the United States and other countries. All other trademarks used herein are the property of their respective owners.

[i] United States Census Bureau, Facts for Features: Older Americans Month May 2017

[ii] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 2017

[iii] Kaiser Health News, Medicare To Allow Ambulances to Take Patients to Urgent Care, Doctors’ Offices    Instead of ER, 2019

SOURCE: American Well