Adoption and interest in telehealth technology for patient consultations has increased substantially over the past few years, according to a new physician survey released by telehealth provider American Well.
The survey, which was conducted by M3 Global Research, polled 800 US physicians in late 2018. Of these, 62.5 percent were primary care physicians and the remainder were specialists.
According to the survey, telehealth adoption has increased more than three-fold over the past four years; while only five percent of physicians reported ever using the technology in 2015, 22 percent of the current survey’s respondents said that they have experience with video visits. Among those who have used the technology, 93 percent said they believed that telehealth improved patients’ access to care and 77 percent said that it allows both parties to more efficiently use their time.
Compared to a 57 percent rate recorded in 2015 survey, 69 percent of polled physicians said that they would be willing to use telehealth to conduct a video visit. Here, respondents cited increased access for patients, work-life balance flexibility and improved outcomes as primary reasons for their interest in the technology. When stratifying the physicians by their age, willingness to conduct a video visit was highest among those aged 35 to 44 years (77 percent), and lowest among those 55 years or older (60 percent).
Also highlighted in the survey writeup was the high rates of telehealth interest among specialists whose disciplines often face burnout. The standouts here included a 91 percent telehealth interest rate among urologists, an 89 percent rate among emergency medicine practitioners, and 83 percent rate among infectious disease specialists and a 75 percent rate among neurologists.
In terms of physician barriers to telehealth adoption, 77 percent cited reimbursement uncertainty and 72 percent said they still had questions about its clinical appropriateness.
WHY IT MATTERS
A key first step to technology adoption in healthcare is buy-in both at the leadership and physician level. And although healthcare practitioners are notoriously resistant to change, the survey notes that the rate of telehealth adoption among practitioners appears to be exceeding that of EHRs.
WHAT’S THE TREND
The telehealth sector has been rife with M&As, new service launches, major partnerships and substantial funding rounds from players of all sizes. But despite its clear growth and increasing foothold within healthcare, some major questions still remain regarding its comparative efficacy, appropriate regulation, physician uptake and other major concerns for an industry looking to the telecommunications technology as an answer to some of its logistical challenges.
ON THE RECORD
"Physicians are adopting telehealth much faster than they adopted EHRs at a similar stage of market development," Dr. Sylvia Romm, VP of clinical transformation at American Well, said in a release announcing the survey results. "Physicians' increased willingness to see patients over video, in addition to the increasing physician shortage, high burnout rates and a more favorable reimbursement landscape, signals a boom in virtual visits over the next several years. It's exciting to be a part of such a significant movement."