The latest digital health survey from the American Medical Association finds that physicians are rapidly embracing digital health for a variety of reasons, with the largest numbers using the technology for virtual visits and considering tools to monitor patients at home.
Adoption of digital health tools is growing rapidly among physicians, according to new research from the American Medical Association, with the biggest growth in technology that aid in remote patient monitoring.
Since the AMA began surveying physicians in 2016, the rate of adoption for digital health has increased from 85% to 93% this year, with increases reported regardless of age, gender, or specialty. And those physicians are expanding their toolkit: the average number of digital health tools used per physician has grown from 2.2 in 2016 to 3.8 this year.
“The physician adoption rate of digital health tools has accelerated as physicians grow increasingly optimistic about the advantages that properly designed digital health tools can have for patient care if key requirements are met,” AMA President Jack Resneck Jr., MD, said in a press release.
According to the survey of some 1,300 physicians, the platforms drawing the most interest from physicians are virtual visits (57%) and remote patient monitoring devices (53%), two categories that have seen tremendous growth during the pandemic. The number of physicians using virtual visits jumped from 14% in 2016 to 80% in 2022, while those using RPM jumped from 12% in 2016 to 30% in 2022.
Among other uses, 47% of physicians are now employing digital health tools for clinical decision support, up from 28% in 2016, while 43% are using tools to improve patient engagement (up from 26% in 2016), 58% are using digital health for point of care/workflow enhancement (up from 42% in 2016) and 68% are using the technology to improve consumer access to clinical data (up from 53% in 2016).
RPM still has the least usage among the listed digital health tools, a sign that the concept isn't yet fully supported by policy or reimbursement, but 38% of physicians surveyed said they plan to use it within the year and another 23% said they'll take a little longer to embrace the technology.
Among the reasons for jumping on the digital health bandwagon, improved clinical outcomes and work efficiency topped the list, while the ability to reduce stress and prevent burnout are gaining ground. The most important requirement for digital health adoption is liability coverage, followed by integration with the electronic health record platform and assurances of data privacy.
As for newer technologies entering the healthcare space, the survey indicated physicians are interested but haven't yet tried them out.
According to the survey, 20% of physicians are now using AI and 40% plan to try out the technology in the coming year. The same goes for digital therapeutics, biometrics authentication, and precision and personalized medicine, with low usage but lots of interest in adopting the technology in the near future.
Finally, 60% of physicians surveyed say digital health will have the biggest impact in chronic disease management, while 59% see the technology supporting preventive care, 57% say it will address and automate administrative burdens, 50% say it will augment physician capacity by supporting care for less acute patients as appropriate, and 46% say the technology will improve access to care in underserved areas.
“The AMA survey illustrates the importance physicians place on validated digital health tools that improve health while streamlining the technological and administrative burdens faced each day in medicine. These technologies also must be designed and deployed in ways that advance health equity,” Resneck said in the press release.
Eric Wicklund is the Innovation and Technology Editor for HealthLeaders.