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Poll Reveals Only a Small Number of Older Americans Have Used Online Direct-to-Consumer Health Services


Researchers believe low numbers in the use of direct-to-consumer healthcare services could rapidly trend up.

Close up of male asian doctor with stethoscope working and typing on laptop computer at doctor's office with digital,generative AI. Image Credit: Adobe Stock Images/Keat

Image Credit: Adobe Stock Images/Keat

According to a recent national poll by the University of Michigan, only 7.5% of Americans between the ages of 50-85 years have used direct-to-consumer (DTC) healthcare services from online-only providers, bypassing traditional in-person or telehealth visits. A majority of those surveyed cited convenience as the primary driver for using DTC services, with 60% receiving one-time treatment prescriptions. Despite this, only one-third of users informed their regular health care providers about these prescriptions.1

Particularly, participants aged 50 to 64 years were found more than twice as likely as those over 65 years of age to use DTC online health services (10% vs. 4%). Additionally, close to one-third of older adults surveyed expressed interest in using such services in the future, with over 42% of those aged 50 to 64 years sharing this interest. On the other end, 47% of adults over 65 years of age said that they were unfamiliar with the services.1

Due to the lack of communication with primary providers, there are concerns about the potential for compromising patient safety and continuity of care. The rise of DTC sites and subscription-based apps offers convenient online access to health care services, but limited access to full health history and medical records raises concerns about potentially dangerous interactions between medications. The authors emphasized the need for providers, insurers, and regulators to monitor and address the impact of DTC services on care quality and safety.1

"These compelling findings have important implications for patient safety and continuity of care," said Mark Fendrick, MD, director, VBID, IHPI member, said in a press release. "With rapid growth in this sector of health care predicted for this year and beyond, all providers, insurers and regulators need to pay more attention to how patients are using these services and why, and the impact on care quality and safety."

The study also goes into detail about different types of healthcare accessible through DTC services, including general health care, mental health services, sexual health issues, skin care, weight management, hair loss, and pain management. While convienece was a major factor in individuals using these services, more than 55% of respondents who used DTC services believed that the overall quality of care from their primary care provider was better than what they received from DTC providers.1

"Patients will increasingly seek care online because of the convenience it can provide, especially for those willing to pay the cost out of pocket," said Fendrick. "Its use will likely be boosted by the rapidly increasing number of online vendors and the national shortage of primary care clinicians. The recent launch of a telemedicine platform offering home delivery for the new highly popular weight loss drugs is a noteworthy example of this trend."


Few older adults use direct-to-consumer health services; Many who do don't tell their regular provider. Science Daily. January 14, 2024. Accessed January 16, 2024. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2024/01/240114113649.htm

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