What’s the news: Last year, 74.4% of physicians surveyed reported that telehealth was used in their medical practices nearly three times more than in 2018. According to a recent AMA report, telehealth remains widely available and supports the need for policies that continue to support this vital access to care. .
Video conferencing with patients was the main driver of change, with availability more than four times higher in 2022 than four years earlier, according to the AMA Policy Research Perspectives telehealth report (PDF). Only 14.3 percent of doctors had the opportunity to use telehealth for video conferences with patients in 2018, while in 2022 the corresponding number of doctors was 66.3 percent. At the same time, the number of doctors who reported using patient monitoring in their practices rose to 21.5 percent last year, up from 10.4. % in 2018.
Although the immediate need due to the COVID-19 pandemic has passed, telehealth, and in particular remote patient visits, has become part of the general way physicians provide care, the report was written by Carol K. Kane, PhD, AMAs. director of economics and health policy research.
Supporting telehealth is an integral part of the AMA Recovery Plan for Americas Physicians.
Telehealth is critical to the future of healthcare, which is why the AMA continues to aggressively expand telehealth policy, research, and resources to ensure the sustainability and equitable payment of physician practices.
Why it’s important: Telemedicine can help reduce health inequities and improve patient access to care, with studies showing that telehealth and in-person diagnoses are the answer nearly 90% of the time.
Telehealth has, among other things, offered patients and doctors a new way to treat chronic diseases. A recently released AMA survey found that in 2022:
- 54.9% of doctors used telehealth to treat patients with chronic diseases, compared to 9.9% in 2018.
- 49.8% used telehealth to diagnose or treat patients, compared to 15.6% in 2018.
- 24.4% worked at a reception that offered patients after-hours care or night calls via telehealth, while in 2018 the corresponding figure was 9.9%.
Last year, 53.9% of the doctors who responded to the survey had organized a video conference visit during the past week, and 49% only had an audio visit.
These percentages are lower than the percentages of doctors who have video conferencing or audio visits in their practice because not all doctors can use what is offered. And in many specialty practices, there are likely to be differences among specialists in how often they use telehealth.
For example, the AMA study showed that 83.1% of psychiatrists made a video visit during the week before the study. This figure was 66.8 percent for primary care physicians, 64.3 percent for specialists, and 45.3 percent for surgeons.
Specifically, Medicare’s claims show that while 3 percent of total 2022 spending came from telehealth, psychiatrists accounted for 33 percent of telehealth spending. In endocrinology, the second-highest physician specialty, it was 9%, the AMA report said.
More information: AMA advocacy helped secure congressional action that extended Medicare telehealth coverage through 2024, and the AMA is pushing for permanent policy changes that support telehealth long-term. Visit AMA Advocacy in Action to learn what’s at stake in supporting telehealth and other advocacy priorities the AMA is actively working on.
In the meantime, the AMA Future of Health Immersion program helps physicians, practices and health systems optimize and sustain telehealth and digital care practices in their organizations. A new AMA report State Telehealth Policy Trends: 2023 Annual Review (PDF) details changes in telehealth coverage across the country. and payment parity, telehealth license, voice-only telehealth and more.
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