physicians like telemedicine and plan to keep investing in it

This comes even as the majority say that telemedicine is decreasing as in-person visits return

By now, everyone likely knows that telemedicine surged during the pandemic: in the last week of March 2020 alone, telehealth visits increased by 154%, mostly out of necessity. Before the pandemic, very few patients had ever used such services

It turns out, though, that once patients were forced to use telehealth, they overwhelmingly liked the experience: a 2021 survey of 2,000 patients found that nearly 88% said they wanted to continue using telehealth services for non-urgent consultations even after COVID-19 ends. That’s a massive chance from 2020, when over 65% had said they felt hesitant or doubtful about the quality of telemedicine.

On top of that, Congress recently extended the availability of telehealth for Medicare patients beyond the pandemic. So, clearly, it’s here to stay. 

There’s still one important group that needs to be on board with it, though: physicians, many of whom did not offer these services prior the pandemic. So, how do they feel about using them now and how do they feel like it’s impacted their ability to care for their patients?

According to a new survey, released by the American Medical Association (AMA) on Wednesday, the answer is overwhelmingly positive on both counts.  

Of the 2,232 physicians who responded to the AMA poll, 85% said they they currently use telehealth; of the 15% that currently don’t offer telehealth, the majority never did, even at the height of COVID. That means that very few who started offering telemedicine suddenly stopped when in-person visits came back.

The reason they’ve continued to allow patients to see them virtually is that the results have been strong: roughly 60% said they either agreed, or strongly agreed, that telehealth allowed their practice to provide more comprehensive quality care for patients. In addition, more than 80% agreed that patients have better access to care since they began using telehealth, and 62% said that their patients are more satisfied as a result. 

But, perhaps most importantly, over 50% of physicians said that telehealth increased their own professional satisfaction.

When physicians were asked which factors they prioritized in measuring the value of telehealth, the top answers were: “patient satisfaction,” “access to care,” “clinical outcomes and clinical quality,” and “practice/operational efficiency and effectiveness.”

The success of telehealth is most apparent in the fact that doctors want to keep using it, despite the fact that the majority of physicians polled said they see the use of the technology is actually decreasing; mostly they attributed that to doing a mix of in-person and telemedicine visits, or patients simply preferring to come and see a doctor in-person.

Yet, most doctors still said they will invest more in telemedicine going forward: 56% of respondants they were personally motivated to increase use of telehealth in their practice, and nearly 70% said the same thing about their healthcare organization.

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