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Voting for
virtual health


While health consumers give a strong vote of confidence for virtual healthcare, according to a recent Accenture survey, few are being offered the services they are prepared to use. This signals a wake-up call for providers, payers and policy makers who are not yet transforming health and care services. Consumers are clear: In the 21st century, 20th century healthcare is not good enough.

The Accenture survey reveals significant US consumer interest in a wide range of health and care services provided virtually. When asked which of 16 services they would like to receive virtually, more than half of the services were of interest to 70 percent or more of respondents; all of the services were of interest to at least 50 percent of respondents. Whether having a telemedicine clinical encounter with a physician, telehealth support such as medication-related reminders or tracking health indicators such as blood pressure and blood sugars, or receiving daily support to manage an ongoing health issue, consumers are ready to try virtual healthcare.

Payers and providers need to act now to meet expectations and accelerate virtual health adoption, so that even consumers not yet familiar with this transformative approach can benefit from these pioneering services.



Despite the strong interest in virtual health, only 21 percent of surveyed consumers said they have actually received healthcare virtually. The gap between consumer interest and the availability of virtual health services provides an opportunity for those who move quickly to expand existing or implement new services. It is also an opportunity to expand consumer awareness of virtual health options and further grow the market. And while 73 percent of consumers had some awareness of virtual health, only five percent of those surveyed said they “know a lot” about virtual health. Twenty-seven percent had “never heard of” virtual healthcare. Increasing consumer knowledge of, and familiarity with, virtual health will expand interest and demand.

Consumer awareness of virtual healthcare. This opens a new window.


Where it becomes interesting for healthcare organizations is in fueling the bell curve peak. Encouragement to “try virtual” from either physicians (44 percent) or health plans (31 percent) are important adoption drivers for those “less interested” in virtual health today.

Reasons for hesitant consumers to try virtual health. This opens a new window.



Consumers interested in virtual health represent a significant share of the total US population—68 percent of respondents under age 65 said they were somewhat or very interested in receiving healthcare virtually. These respondents include millennials and baby boomers, many of whom are also caring for the health and other needs of both children and aging parents.

Also interesting is the finding that virtual health appeals to some consumer segments that have been traditionally difficult to engage in healthcare, such as men 18 to 34 years old, 27 percent of whom said they had received healthcare virtually.

Reasons consumers are motivated to manage their own healthcare (by age group). This opens a new window.


There are various motivations among a range of age groups for engaging in their health and care—some are motivated by mental factors, weight loss, a desire to live longer or condition management. Designing a virtual health service portfolio that can adapt to the needs of different consumer segments is a key component of success.



Business growth and improved competitiveness are not the only returns from virtual health. Healthcare is one of the most labor intensive of all industries. At the same time, the US, like the rest of the world, is facing shortages of many clinicians and health professionals. Tight resources and demand that outpaces supply require new approaches and virtual health innovation can deliver services that are scalable, less labor intensive and lower cost.

There is a vast, untapped opportunity for healthcare organizations to expand capacity and lower costs by combining in-person with virtual health services—applying virtual health to annual ambulatory patient encounters is estimated to save more than US$7 billion worth of primary care physician (PCP) time each year. The key to unlocking this economic value is consumer willingness to become involved in managing their own health. The virtual health survey clearly shows that consumers are ready to embrace technologies to help manage and engage in their health collaborating with physicians and other clinicians.


1Virtual Health: The Untapped Opportunity,” Accenture, 2015.


Frances Dare

Frances Dare
Managing Director of Virtual Health Services

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