Telehealth helps in pandemic, concerns linger: AP-NORC poll

Dec 14, 2021, 9:00 PM | Updated: Dec 15, 2021, 11:06 am
FILE - Medical director of Doctor on Demand Dr. Vibin Roy prepares to conduct an online visit with ...

FILE - Medical director of Doctor on Demand Dr. Vibin Roy prepares to conduct an online visit with a patient from his work station at home, April 23, 2021, in Keller, Texas. Comfort levels with remote care can vary depending on factors like age, income level or race, according to the survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

(AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Most older Americans have had to use telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic and many were comfortable with it, but a new poll finds persistent concerns about issues like technology, the quality of care and patient privacy.

Comfort levels with remote care can vary depending on factors like age, income level or race, according to the survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Doctors, hospitals and other care providers had to cancel visits and surgeries and abruptly switch to remote care as the pandemic unfolded in early 2020. Many patients followed their doctors online and have continued to get care that way as coronavirus cases ebbed and flowed in subsequent waves.

Telehealth involves patients and care providers connecting remotely through computers, tablets or phones. They often use video calls but also can trade emails or secure text messages. Sometimes both parties just talk on the phone without video.

Since the pandemic started, 62% of adults age 50 and older have used some form of telehealth, the AP-NORC poll found.

Patients most frequently used telehealth for consultations on medications, non-urgent health concerns, wellness checks or to continue with ongoing care to manage a chronic condition like diabetes.

The ease of finding an appointment or meeting a specific provider and the chance to get an immediate response were the most common reasons respondents opted for telehealth. Roughly a third said each was a major factor and another third called them minor factors.

A majority also cited avoiding COVID-19 exposure as a major or minor reason for seeking care through telehealth, with about a quarter calling it a major reason.

Rosa Bivens became a remote care convert during the pandemic partly because it helped her avoid the virus.

The 59-year-old Bivens also likes how telehealth allows her to stay connected to her doctor in Maryland while she’s on a temporary work assignment in Germany. Bivens is a military family life counselor, and she says her doctor back home understands the stress she faces in her job and how it affects her health.

“That personal relationship is important to me,” she said.

The poll found that those who received care through telehealth were generally comfortable with it. Roughly 6 in 10 said they were at least somewhat likely to seek such remote care after the pandemic ends.

But many concerns remain. Chief among them is worry about receiving care that is not as effective as an in-person visit. Roughly two-thirds of older adults said they were at least somewhat concerned with that.

Many also have some worry about not having a personal relationship with a doctor, running into information security or technical problems and a lack of privacy.

Judy Ostrom, for instance, didn’t use remote care during the pandemic and has no plans to start.

“You don’t know who’s walking in and out of the room where the doctor is,” the 60-year-old resident of La Pine, Oregon, said. “I love my family, but sometimes you want your conversation with your doctor to be confidential.”

Some concerns were more concentrated among adults age 65 and older. For example, those patients were more worried about not having a personal relationship with their doctor and not having the appropriate devices compared with people ages 50 to 64.

Debra Nanez, 69, of Tucson, Arizona, said she sticks to audio-only telephone calls with her doctors when she does telehealth. The retired nurse worries about the security of any health information she’d have to enter into a website to do other forms of telehealth.

She also doesn’t have a reliable way to do a video call.

“Sometimes my phone acts funny; it will work and then suddenly the phone will turn off,” she said. “That’s why I’ll just do it telephonically. I have no problems with it.”

People making less than $50,000 are roughly three times as likely as those with higher incomes to feel that having a doctor provide the necessary devices for a telehealth visit would be “very” or “extremely” helpful. The poll also found that people with lower incomes are more likely to say it would be helpful if the doctor provided assistance in using the technology.

Nonwhite respondents are especially likely to see telehealth as a way to avoid COVID-19 exposure. But they are also more concerned than white respondents about the security of their health information, both for telehealth and in-person care.

The poll finds nonwhite older Americans are also especially concerned about meeting with a provider who does not understand their cultural preferences.

Education about telehealth and a growing familiarity with the practice can help alleviate some of the lingering concerns patients have, according to Mei Kwong, executive director for the Center for Connected Health Policy.

Kwong’s California-based nonprofit researches and promotes the use of virtual technology in health care. She noted that once the pandemic started, the clinics and hospitals that were most successful in converting patients to remote care took the time to explain it and even do test runs before people made actual visits.

But Kwong, who was not connected to the AP-NORC poll, noted that this sort of education wasn’t widespread.

“Prior to the pandemic, telehealth was very niche,” she said. “Then when the pandemic hit, (patients) were just basically slapped in the face with it.

“Nobody really explained what it was.”


Murphy reported from Indianapolis.


The AP-NORC poll of 1,000 adults age 50 and older was conducted between November 12-15 with funding from The SCAN Foundation. It used a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based Foresight 50+ Panel of adults age 50 and older, which is designed to represent the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Eviation's "Alice", the world's first all-electric commuter airplane, takes off for its first fligh...
Associated Press

Prototype electric airplane takes first flight

A prototype, all-electric airplane took its first flight Tuesday morning in central Washington state.
23 hours ago
FILE - Anti-Japan protesters on disputed islands march near the Japanese Consulate General in Shang...
Associated Press

EXPLAINER: What’s behind strained China-Japan relations

TOKYO (AP) — Japan and China on Thursday mark the 50th anniversary of the 1972 normalization of their ties, but there isn’t much of a celebratory mood. Improved ties between Asia’s two biggest economies are considered vital to the region’s stability and prosperity, but they remain at odds over disputed East China Sea islands and […]
23 hours ago
FILE - This aerial photo taken from an airplane shows a reservoir near the old Piney Point phosphat...
Associated Press

Pollution from Florida mining a concern with Hurricane Ian

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The polluted leftovers of Florida’s phosphate fertilizer mining industry, more than 1 billion tons in “stacks” that resemble enormous ponds, are at risk for leaks or other contamination when Hurricane Ian comes ashore in the state, environmental groups say. Florida has 24 such phosphogypsum stacks, most of them concentrated in […]
23 hours ago
Associated Press

Montero helps Sounders draw Cincinnati 1-1

SEATTLE (AP) — Brenner scored in the first half to give FC Cincinnati the lead, but Fredy Montero equalized for Seattle in the second half of a 1-1 draw on Tuesday night that kept the Sounders slim playoff hopes alive. Brenner scored his 15th goal of the season in the 24th minute on a breakaway […]
23 hours ago
FILE - The angel Moroni statue atop the Salt Lake Temple is silhouetted against a cloud-covered sky...
Associated Press

Churches defend clergy loophole in child sex abuse reporting

It was a frigid Sunday evening at the Catholic Newman Center in Salt Lake City when the priest warned parishioners who had gathered after Mass that their right to private confessions was in jeopardy. A new law would break that sacred bond, the priest said, and directed the parishioners to sign a one-page form letter […]
23 hours ago
This photo released by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation shows Sirhan Sir...
Associated Press

RFK assassin Sirhan Sirhan challenges his parole denial

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Sirhan Sirhan, who assassinated presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, is asking a judge on Wednesday to free him from prison by reversing California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s denial of his parole earlier this year. Sirhan shot Kennedy moments after the U.S. senator from New York claimed victory in California’s pivotal […]
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Telehealth helps in pandemic, concerns linger: AP-NORC poll