In July 2016, the AMA conducted a study of physicians' motivations and requirements for the adoption of digital clinical tools.
While there is broad-based optimism, physicians told the AMA there are “must-haves” that digital health tools need to turn their enthusiasm into adoption.
These requirements fall into the following categories:
—Does it work?
—Will I receive payment?
—Will I be liable?
—Will it work in my practice?
As these tools matured, the AMA repeated the study in 2019 to determine the degree to which adoption has occurred in the past few years and any attitudinal shifts among physicians towards their use and key requirements.
This survey also looked at emerging technologies including various applications of augmented intelligence.
This refresh of the 2016 study confirmed upward trends in the use of and enthusiasm for digital tools, but solidifies that there is still work to do across the industry to achieve adoption and scale.
More than 87% of physicians see at least some advantage in digital health tools. There has been an increase in those that see a definite advantage led by PCPs whose interest and enthusiasm has surpassed that of specialists: 40% of PCPs see a definite advantage vs. 33% of specialists.
Importantly, the percentage of physicians that see no real advantage to digital tools is trending downward and these tend to be among physicians over age 50. This follows general attitudes to technology seen in the U.S. population.
Adoption of digital health tools is growing
Use of all seven digital health tools included in the survey has increased and the average number of those tools used per physician has also increased. The largest increases were in tele-visits (usage doubled from 14% in 2016 to 28% in 2019) and remote monitoring for improved care.
Drivers of adoption have remained consistent since 2016; however, two elements that attract physicians to digital health tools have shifted in importance: (1) "Allows me to provide care remotely" has moved from a niche need to a secondary driver. (2) "Helps reduce stress/burn-out" has moved from a low priority to being on a key motivator and secondary driver.
The key requirements for adoption identified in 2016 remain the same; however, there was heightened focus on the need for solutions to be covered by standard malpractice insurance, well integrated in the EHR and concerns around data privacy.
Awareness of emerging technologies is high
In the most recent research, we asked physicians about their awareness and current usage of emerging technologies such as augmented intelligence, blockchain and precision medicine. While adoption trails significantly, with most remaining in the single digits, five of the seven emerging technologies included in the survey have more than one-third of physicians intending to adopt them within the year. Interest is highest for use with chronic care patients.
Support is needed
Finally, physicians planning to implement digital health tools seek support through CME courses, podcasts and conferences, step-by-step implementation guides and point of care resources.