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Analysis

Docs Say Telehealth Provides Effective Access During Pandemic

By John Commins  
   November 19, 2020

A new survey finds 60% of clinician respondents say telehealth has improved the health of their patients, and 68% said they’re motivated to increase telehealth use.

More than 75% of 1,594 physicians and other clinicians in a new national survey say telehealth has allowed them to provide quality care for a variety of specialties, from COVID-19-related care to behavioral health.

“The strong support shown for telehealth, as evidenced in these results, reinforces the knowledge that telehealth is critical to how we deliver healthcare today," said study co-author Steve Ommen, MD, medical director, Mayo Clinic Center for Connected Care.

"The use of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic highlights its importance in care delivery. Its continued use will be instrumental in connecting to patients everywhere, Ommen said.

The 48-question survey was conducted between July 13 and August 15. Most respondents (87%) were medical doctors and 13% were nurse practitioners, psychologists, physician assistants, and social workers.

Among the survey findings:

  • 60% said telehealth has improved the health of their patients.
     
  • 68% said they’re motivated to increase telehealth use in their practices.
     
  • 11% said they were using remote patient monitoring technologies with patients in their homes, including smartphones, blood pressure cuffs, body weight scales, and pulse oximeters.
     
  • 55% said that telehealth has improved the satisfaction of their work.
     
  • More than 80% said telehealth improved the timeliness of care for their patients. A similar percentage said their patients have reacted favorably to telehealth.

Barriers Remain

Despite the solid reviews for telehealth, the survey also identified ongoing barriers to adoption.

Specifically:

  • More than 64% said technology challenges for patients were a barrier, and included lack of access to technology and/or internet/broadband, and low digital literacy.
     
  • 58% of physicians can't access their telehealth technology directly from their electronic health records.
     
  • 73.3% said no or low reimbursement will be a major challenge post-COVID.  

Susan R. Bailey, MD, president of the American Medical Association, said that, despite proving its worth during the pandemic, "how telehealth will be used after the pandemic is in the balance."

"No one wants to see new access to telehealth suddenly halted," she said. "The time is now for government officials, physicians, patients, and other stakeholders to work together on a solid plan to support telehealth services going forward."

The survey is part of the Telehealth Impact Study prepared by the coalition's Telehealth Work Group, comprised of the American Medical Association, American Telemedicine Association, Change Healthcare, Digital Medicine Society, Massachusetts Health Quality Partners, MassChallenge HealthTech, Mayo Clinic, and MITRE.

“The strong support shown for telehealth, as evidenced in these results, reinforces the knowledge that telehealth is critical to how we deliver healthcare today.”

John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

More than 80% said telehealth improved the timeliness of care for their patients. A similar percentage said their patients have reacted favorably to telehealth.

More than 64% said technology challenges for patients were a barrier, and included lack of access to technology and/or internet/broadband, and low digital literacy.

Nearly 3-in-4 respondents (73.3%) said no or low reimbursement will be a major challenge post-COVID. 


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