New Data Show COVID Telehealth Pivot by Patients, Physicians

Those figures might overstate the real level of telehealth usage in fall 2020. A study by the Commonwealth Fund, Harvard University, and Phreesia found that in December of that year, only 8% of outpatient check outs included the use of telemedicine– which was up from 6% in October. In contrast to the AMA results, which originated from its 2020 standard survey of doctors, the Commonwealth Fund research study utilized data from practice management systems and an online client registration platform, as well as electronic health record information.

Ken Terry is a healthcare journalist and author. His most current book is “Physician-Led Healthcare Reform: A New Approach to Medicare for All.”

The AMA report credited telehealth and broadened coverage and payment rules for enabling physician practices to keep their income streams positive and their practices open. The Commonwealth Fund research study found “a substantial cumulative decrease in check outs throughout all specializeds over the course of the pandemic in 2020.” These varied from a drop of 27% in pediatric visits to a decrease of 8% in rheumatology sees throughout the duration from March to December 2020.

A research study by the Commonwealth Fund, Harvard University, and Phreesia found that in December of that year, only 8% of outpatient check outs included the usage of telemedicine– and that was up from 6% in October. In contrast to the 70.3% of doctors who were in practices that had video gos to, only 59.1% of the respondents had actually personally conducted a videoconferencing see in the previous week. In general, the practice-level usage of remote patient monitoring increased from 10.4% of practices in 2018 to 19.9% in 2020.

Likewise of note, 22.4% of doctors said their practices used telehealth for after-hours care or night calls in 2020, vs 9.9% in 2018.

Official assessments through telehealth were likewise significantly typical: 17.2% of doctors stated their practices did this in 2020, compared to 11.3% in 2018.

Seventy-two percent of FP/GP and pediatric practices used telehealth to identify or treat clients. Just 64.9% of internists said their practices did so, and just 61.9% of them said their practices offered intense care by means of telehealth, vs 70% of FPs/GPs and pediatricians.

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How Telehealth Was Used
Across all specialties, 58% of physicians said clinicians in their practices utilized it to identify or treat patients; 59.2%, to handle patients with persistent disease; 50.4%, to supply acute care; and 34.3%, to provide preventive care.

These ranged from a drop of 27% in pediatric visits to a decline of 8% in rheumatology gos to throughout the duration from March to December 2020.

The report found that 70.3% of doctors worked in practices that utilized videoconferencing to offer patient check outs in September 2020, compared to 14.3% of doctors in September 2018. Sixty-seven percent of doctors operated in practices that used telephone gos to (the comparable figure for 2018 was not available).

There were huge differences in virtual visit usage among specializeds. Eighty-five percent of psychiatrists were in practices that provided online appointments, according to the AMA study, and three quarters of medical care doctors stated their practices offered telehealth visits. Pediatricians were much less likely than family practice/general practice doctors (FPs/GPs) or basic internists to do so.
Over 75% of practices in cardiology, endocrinology/diabetes, gastroenterology, neurology, and nephrology used telehealth check outs. Far less cosmetic surgeons reported that their practice utilized virtual gos to; the exceptions were urologists and skin doctors, 87% of whose practices used telehealth.

Virtual Consults With Peers
Some practices utilized telehealth to enable physicians to seek advice from with associates. Twelve percent of participants stated their practices utilized telehealth to look for a consultation from a healthcare professional in 2020, compared to 6.9% in 2018. Official assessments through telehealth were likewise increasingly common: 17.2% of physicians said their practices did this in 2020, compared to 11.3% in 2018.

A more current survey of hospital executives found that since September 2021, health center telehealth gos to had actually leveled off at 10% to 20% of consultations. Similarly, a McKinsey survey in July revealed that telehealth encounters comprised 13% to 17% of assessment and management visits across all specialties.
Big Jump During Pandemic
The AMA report uses a wealth of data on how doctors use telehealth and the distinctions in between specializeds in this area.

Significantly, 33% of medical professionals said their practices utilized remote patient monitoring. This finding was driven by high rates of usage amongst cardiology practices (63.3%) and endocrinology practices (41.6%). In general, the practice-level usage of remote patient monitoring increased from 10.4% of practices in 2018 to 19.9% in 2020.

In general, 79% of doctors worked in a practice that utilized telehealth, compared to 25% in 2018.
Not every doctor in practices that utilized telehealth conducted virtual check outs. In contrast to the 70.3% of medical professionals who were in practices that had video gos to, only 59.1% of the participants had personally performed a videoconferencing go to in the previous week. The typical numbers of weekly video and telephone sees per physician were 9.9 and 7.6, respectively, consisting of those who did none.

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Telehealth usage, although much higher than prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, accounted for less than 20% of weekly outpatient visits 6 months into the pandemic, according to a new report from the American Medical Association (AMA). Ten percent of weekly check outs were performed by means of videoconferencing, and 8.1% of check outs were performed using the telephone.

Amongst medical specializeds, endocrinologists/diabetes physicians were those most likely to report the practice-level usage of telehealth to diagnose or treat patients (71.9%), manage clients with chronic illness (92.1%), and provide preventive care (52.6%).

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