A study released by Lightspeed Research carried out August 19-21, 2009 from 1000 respondents shows that consumers are willing to use email and doctors’ websites to communicate with their doctor in the hope of saving time and money.
Over half of respondents would be willing to use e-mail communication to do a variety of routine interactions with their doctor such as receive routine test results (59%), request a repeat prescription (53%), confirm an appointment (53%) and update their doctors on an existing condition (51%). Using a doctor’s website for these activities was also popular, but the majority were unwilling to use mobile SMS (text messages) or live online chats for the same activities.
In spite of this willingness, most respondents said their family doctor didn’t have the option to communication by email, website, text or online chat.
When it comes to emailing their primary care physician specifically about an illness or condition, the key advantages were that it would save time because they didn’t have to go and see the doctor (59%), there was no waiting for an appointment (56%), and being able to avoid other sick people in the waiting room (51%). Women were more likely than men to see each of these as an advantage, however the older generation (55+) were the least likely to see any advantages in emailing their doctor about an illness or condition.
46% of respondents said they were unwilling to pay for an email consultation, and a further 31% were willing to pay only if it was covered by insurance. As a result, email is unlikely to pose a threat to the standard face-to-face consultation in the near future.
Buying drugs online
When it comes to medications, however, many are already embracing the web to buy their drugs. One in five have already bought drugs online, with the older age group (55+) the most likely to have done so at 30% of respondents. Of those already buying drugs online, half said they were buying drugs for which they have a prescription from their physician. Vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements were also popular medications to buy online.
As with many other kinds of web shopping, convenience and cost were the main reasons people chose to buy drugs online with 61% choosing the convenience of home delivery and 59% stating the price was lower than their local pharmacy. Many were also attracted by the ability to receive up to three months’ supply of their medications. Only 5% of those who had bought drugs online had ever experienced a problem.
In general, consumers are wary of buying drugs or medications online: 68% worry about the drugs being counterfeit; 49% that the online pharmacy is not legitimate and 46% that the drugs they received would not be FDA approved. Insurance also presents a barrier with 38% saying they worry they would not be reimbursed if they use an online pharmacy.
Commenting on the results, Chris Urinyi, CEO of Lightspeed Research, The Americas, said: “There are clearly a number of benefits that consumers believe they would receive if they could access their doctor by email – particularly convenience and cost-saving. Interestingly, while older respondents were not convinced that email would be a good alternative to a consultation in person with a doctor, they were the most likely to have bought drugs online.”
Lightspeed Research – company website.