Digital

74% of physicians work in practices that offer telehealth

. 3 MIN READ
By
Tanya Albert Henry , Contributing News Writer

AMA News Wire

74% of physicians work in practices that offer telehealth

Dec 20, 2023

What’s the news: Last year, 74.4% of physicians surveyed reported that telehealth was used in their medical practices—nearly three times the share in 2018—according to a recent AMA report showing that telehealth remains widely available and supporting the need for policies that continue to support this vital mode of accessing care.

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Videoconferencing with patients was the main driver for the change, as its availability was more than four times higher in 2022 than it was four years earlier, according to the findings of an AMA Policy Research Perspectives report on telehealth (PDF). Just 14.3% of physicians had the ability to use telehealth to videoconference with patients in 2018, compared with 66.3% of physicians in 2022. Meanwhile, physicians reporting use of remote-patient monitoring in their practices rose to 21.5% last year, up from 10.4% in 2018.

“While the immediate need due to the COVID-19 pandemic has passed, telehealth and especially remote visits with patients, has become part of the mainstream way in which physicians deliver care,” says the report, written by Carol K. Kane, PhD, the AMA’s director of economics and health policy research.

Supporting telehealth is an essential component of the AMA Recovery Plan for America’s Physicians.

Telehealth is critical to the future of health care, which is why the AMA continues to lead the charge to aggressively expand telehealth policy, research and resources to ensure physician practice sustainability and fair payment.

Why it’s important: Telemedicine can help reduce health inequities and improve patients’ access to care, and research shows that telehealth and in-person diagnoses match up nearly 90% of the time.

Among other things, telehealth has provided patients and physicians a new way to manage chronic disease. The newly published AMA survey research perspective showed that, in 2022:

  • 54.9% of physicians were in a practice that used telehealth to manage patients with chronic diseases—up from 9.9% in 2018.
  • 49.8% were in a practice that used telehealth to diagnose or treat patients—up from 15.6% in 2018.
  • 24.4% worked in a practice that provided patients with after-hours care or night calls via telehealth—up from 9.9% in 2018.

Among physicians surveyed last year, 53.9% had provided a videoconference visit in the past week while 49% had provided an audio-only visit.

Those percentages are lower than the shares of physicians whose practices offer videoconferencing or audio-only visits because not all physicians in a practice may use what is being offered. And in multispecialty practices, there are likely differences among specialists in how often they use telehealth.

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For example, the AMA survey showed that 83.1% of psychiatrists provided a video visit in the week before the survey. That rate was 66.8% for primary care physicians, 64.3% for medical specialists and 45.3% for surgeons.

Notably, Medicare claims data shows while 3% of total 2022 spending was from telehealth, the share of telehealth spending for psychiatrists was 33%. For endocrinology, the next highest physician specialty, it was 9%, the AMA report says.

Learn more: The AMA’s advocacy helped secure congressional action that extended Medicare telehealth coverage through 2024, and the AMA is pushing for permanent policy changes that support telehealth for the long haul. Visit AMA Advocacy in Action to find out what’s at stake in supporting telehealth and other advocacy priorities the AMA is actively working on.

Meanwhile, the AMA Future of Health Immersion Program helps physicians, practices and health systems optimize and sustaining telehealth and digital care modalities at their organizations. A new AMA report—“State telehealth policy trends: 2023 year in review” (PDF)—details changes across the country in telehealth coverage and payment parity, telehealth licensure, audio-only telehealth and more.

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