AMA survey shows widespread enthusiasm for telehealth
CHICAGO — An American Medical Association (AMA) survey released today shows doctors have embraced telehealth with enthusiasm and expect to use it even more in the future.
Nearly 85% of responding physicians indicated that they currently use telehealth to care for their patients, and nearly 70% said their organization is motivated to continue using telehealth in their practice. Many physicians plan to provide telehealth services for chronic disease management and ongoing medical management, care coordination, mental/behavioral health, and specialty care.
The investigation comes as Congress recently expanded the availability of telehealth for Medicare patients beyond the current COVID-19 public health emergency. Further congressional action will be required to provide continued access to Medicare telehealth services.
As physicians and practices plan to expand telehealth services, they say widespread adoption depends on preventing a return to previous no insurance coverage and little or no payer reimbursement. . Payers, public and private, should continue to evaluate and improve policies, coverage and payment rates for services delivered via telehealth.
“Physicians view telehealth as providing quality care to their patients, and policymakers and payers have come to the same conclusion. Patients will benefit immensely from this new era of improved access to care,” said AMA President Gerald E. Harmon, MD. “This survey shows that adoption of the technology is widespread, as is the demand for continued access. It is critical that Congress take action and make telehealth access permanent for Medicare patients.
Physicians strongly argue that telehealth via audio-only/telephone remains covered in the future to ensure equitable access. This coverage was authorized during the public health emergency and extended for several months thereafter.
According to the survey, 95% of physicians say patients are mostly at home at the time of the virtual visit. Allowing patients to be at home is key to making telehealth more accessible. Before the pandemic, Medicare patients had to be physically located in a rural area to access telehealth services, preventing urban and suburban patients from enjoying the same benefits of virtual care. Prior to the pandemic, rural patients had to travel to an “origin site,” essentially another health care facility, outside of their home to access telehealth services. The temporary omnibus extension will allow Medicare patients to receive telehealth services wherever they are, including at home. The AMA will continue to urge Congress to make permanent this policy and others that have provided coverage and convenience to patients.
Less than half of respondents say they can access all of their telehealth platforms through their electronic health records, and more than 75% say their supporting technology does not automatically collect and provide patient-reported data. Improving interoperability between platforms and supporting technology would improve and streamline telehealth services.
Physicians perceive technology, digital literacy, and broadband internet access as the top three barriers to using telehealth. Additionally, only 8% of physicians surveyed said they currently use telemonitoring of patients. WADA will advocate for patient populations and communities with limited access to telehealth services, including, but not limited to, supporting increased funding and planning for telehealth infrastructure such as broadband and connected to the Internet.
Read the survey here.
To learn more about the results, Register for an AMA Telehealth Immersion Program webinar at 10 a.m. ET on March 31.