Consumers are not in the driver's seat of consumer-driven healthcare, nor are they willing to pay the toll when it comes to online physician-patient consultations, according to a report by a media research firm.
Just 3% of adult Internet users had an online clinical consultation with a physician in 2003, but 65% of them said they were interested in online consultations, according to a recent report from JupiterResearch.
The question about whether users had had an online consultation with a physician was asked a bit differently in 2002, according to Monique Levy, health analyst at the market consulting firm, but the results were basically the same.
"Growth was negligible," Levy said.
Everyone seems to be waiting for someone else to make the first move among the three players that make online consultations happen -- physicians, patients and payers, according to Levy.
"It's more accurate to think of consumer-driven healthcare in terms of pockets," Levy said. Earlier surveys document strong usage of the Internet to obtain medical information, but consumers are reluctant to go online for other parts of the healthcare transaction. For example, of those surveyed, 92% said they were unwilling to pay more than $10 for an online consultation.
"The most telling part is that consumers won't pay for this out of pocket, despite the convenience," Levy says. "That action part of it, in making financial decisions or treatment decisions, is lacking."
Doctors have their own issues with reluctance to adopt the new technology, she said.
"They're concerned with security and workflow, but a main issue for them is compensation," she said.
Levy concludes growth in this area will be slow in the next two or three years.
Chronically ill consumers have been the highest adopters of online consultation technology, the report said, but demand also is strong among people who are in good health and those who believe their health is at risk.