Car-award conferrer J.D. Power sets eyes on telehealth business

When shopping around for a big-ticket item like a car, an investment with the potential to change the life of you or your family, you weigh several factors: value, features, safety, customer service. Why should picking a telehealth provider be any different?

That’s the pitch from perennial automobile rater and reviewer J.D. Power, which aims to set the benchmarks in telehealth satisfaction with a new study due this November.

“We know from our insurance market research this year that half of healthcare insurance consumers are considering telehealth as an alternative to traditional primary care, so we are interested in developing telehealth research in order to understand how consumers experience new technology in healthcare and how it affects their overall satisfaction with different providers,” said James Beem, managing director of J.D. Power’s healthcare intelligence arm.

The firm will first divvy up a predefined list of providers into three categories: those owned by hospitals and health systems, those owned by insurance companies or payers and those that provide their services directly to the consumer.

Then, J.D. Power will track customer satisfaction and the user experience among five factors: awareness and selection of the provider, the enrollment process, the telehealth consultation, billing and payment and overall customer service.

In addition, advocacy and loyalty measures will be collected to help forecast adoption rates in the U.S., and people who do not use telehealth services will also be evaluated to measure their awareness of the available options plus their expectations and potential for usage.

RELATED: Federal agencies charge 24 in $1.2B Medicare telemedicine fraud scheme

According to a report (PDF) from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the number of program beneficiaries receiving telehealth services increased 48.3% between 2014 and 2016, while the amount of services provided grew 65.3%—though those users still represent a very small percentage of the overall Medicare population, at about a quarter of a percent of more 35 million beneficiaries.

Meanwhile, among the commercially insured, telehealth visits increased 261% between 2015 and 2017, J.D. Power said.

“With a combination of steady organic growth and announced changes to the CMS reimbursement schedule that will allow providers and payers to be reimbursed for utilization of telehealth services, the telehealth marketplace is on the verge of rapid expansion,” said Greg Truex, senior director in J.D. Power’s U.S. services industries division.

RELATED: Telehealth firm 98point6 nets $50M in round led by Goldman Sachs

“With the industry projecting a 20-30% increase in usage, it is critical to establish trusted, objective benchmarks for the quality of this type of service,” Truex said. “Current providers are still figuring out what are the best performance metrics, what customers are really looking for in a telehealth experience and how to exceed patient expectations.”

In the direct-to-consumer segment, J.D. Power will rank the providers 98Point6, Amwell, Doctor On Demand, HealthTap, MeMD, MDLIVE and Teladoc. In-house services from payers include those from Aetna, Anthem, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Cigna, Humana and United Healthcare.

Among health systems, the company will grade Ascension, Adventist Health, Atrium Health, Catholic Health Initiatives, Dignity Health, Intermountain Healthcare, Kaiser Permanente, Memorial Hermann, Memorial Health, Mercyhealth, MultiCare, Novant Health, Ochsner Health, Providence Health, Spectrum Health, Sutter Health and Trinity Health as well as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as an unranked participant.