Publications

People’s Experiences and Satisfaction With Telehealth During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Australia: Cross-Sectional Survey Study

Background: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth has rapidly been adopted to deliver health care services around the world. To date, studies have not compared people’s experiences with telehealth services during the pandemic in Australia to their experiences with traditional in-person visits. Objective: This study aimed to compare participants’ perceptions of telehealth consults to their perceptions of traditional in-person visits and investigate whether people believe that telehealth services would be useful after the pandemic. Methods: A national, cross-sectional, community survey was conducted between June 5 and June 12, 2020 in Australia. In total, 1369 participants who were aged ≥18 years and lived in Australia were recruited via targeted advertisements on social media (ie, Facebook and Instagram). Participants responded to survey questions about their telehealth experience, which included a free-text response option. A generalized linear model was used to estimate the adjusted relative risks of having a poorer telehealth experience than a traditional in-person visit experience. Content analysis was performed to determine the reasons why telehealth experiences were worse than traditional in-person visit experiences. Results: Of the 596 telehealth users, the majority of respondents (n=369, 61.9%) stated that their telehealth experience was “just as good as” or “better than” their traditional in-person medical appointment experience. On average, respondents perceived that telehealth would be moderately useful to very useful for medical appointments after the COVID-19 pandemic ends (mean 3.67, SD 1.1). Being male (P=.007), having a history of both depression and anxiety (P=.016), and lower patient activation scores (ie, individuals’ willingness to take on the role of managing their health/health care) (P=.036) were significantly associated with a poor telehealth experience. In total, 6 overarching themes were identified from free-text responses for why participants’ telehealth experiences were poorer than their traditional in-person medical appointment experiences, as follows: communication is not as effective, limitations with technology, issues with obtaining prescriptions and pathology results, reduced confidence in their doctor, additional burden for complex care, and inability to be physically examined. Conclusions: Based on our sample’s responses, telehealth appointment experiences were comparable to traditional in-person medical appointment experiences. Telehealth may be worthwhile as a mode of health care delivery while the pandemic continues, and it may continue to be worthwhile after the pandemic.