Telehealth Adoption Is Up 340%, Survey Finds

Samara Rosenfeld
APRIL 18, 2019
telehealth
Photo has been modified. Courtesy of MeMD, Inc.

A survey of primary care physicians and specialists that was released this week by American Well found that physician telehealth adoption is up 340%.

In 2015, only 5% of physicians reported using telehealth visits to see patients. Now, 22% of physicians have used video visits.

Of the physicians that have conducted telehealth visits, 71% said that the technology helps reduce healthcare costs and that it enables high-quality communication with patients. Others (60%) said it enhances the doctor-patient relationship and 77% reported that telehealth visits contribute to a more efficient use of time for the doctor and patient.

The Telehealth Index: 2019 Physician Survey polled 800 physicians — 62.5% were physicians and 37.5% were specialists — across the U.S. in December 2018.

American Well believes that physician telehealth adoption is at an “inflection point” driven by physician burnout.

The survey found that specialists, which are among the most burnt out, are most willing to practice via telehealth.

Urologists have the highest burnout rate (54%) of all specialties and 91% of those surveyed said they were willing to use telehealth.

Telehealth has a chance to bridge the gap between urologist supply and patient demand and urologists can use telehealth for consultations and pre- and post-op appointments.

Emergency medicine, infectious diseases, psychiatry, pediatrics, oncology and neurology were also among the top specialties willing to use telehealth.

But while the most burnt out specialists — urologists, emergency medicine providers and infectious disease physicians — were most willing to use telehealth, they were among the least likely to have used it.

Only 9% of urologists, 11% of emergency medicine providers and 17% of infectious disease physicians have used telehealth.

That’s because 77% of respondents are uncertain about reimbursement. And 72% are unsure about the clinical appropriateness of telehealth services.

Findings of the survey also revealed that more than 50% of U.S. physicians expect to use telehealth visits to care for patients by 2022

The willingness to use telehealth is up to 69% from 57% in 2015, which could be due to the decrease in physicians who are unsure about using telehealth.

Newer physicians aged 25- to 34-years-old were less willing to use telehealth compared to those aged 35- to 44-years-old. American Well suggests that this could be because newer physicians are still learning their craft and are not as confident about new technology.

Physicians’ reasons for their willingness to use telehealth for virtual visits with patients included increasing access for patients, having a flexible work-life balance, attracting and retaining new patients, improving patient outcomes by offering more timely and consistent access to care, and being on the leading edge of medicine.   

“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,” said Sylvia Romm, M.D., MPH, vice president of clinical transformation at American Well.

Romm added that physicians are adopting telehealth more quickly than they adopted electronic health records at a similar stage of development.

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