WASHINGTON & INDIANAPOLIS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Nearly nine out of 10 family physicians say they would use telehealth to assist in treating their patients if they were compensated for it, according to a survey conducted by the Robert Graham Center for Anthem, Inc. and the American Academy of Family Physicians.
The report, “A First Look at Attitudes Surrounding Telehealth,” focuses on physician attitudes about telehealth, the patient services for which telehealth is most used and the hurdles that impede greater adoption of the technology. Its findings are based on 1,557 family physicians’ responses to a mail survey on beliefs, attitudes and use of telehealth in patient care.
“Telehealth is one of several important technologies highlighted by clinicians and policy makers as a potential strategy to enhance access to primary care and reduce costs, and yet its adoption in primary care has been little studied,” said Dr. Andrew Bazemore, director of the Robert Graham Center. “We welcomed the opportunity to partner with Anthem to study family physicians’ attitudes and opinions about telemedicine and to better understand barriers to and enablers of its use in the primary care delivery system.”
The survey suggests that family physicians see telehealth services as having the potential to improve access to primary care services and support continuity of care, though they note additional barriers, including issues with telecommunication training, platforms, reimbursement, and licensing. Most of the family physicians surveyed still feel that their patients may prefer to see their doctor face-to-face, but three in four recognize that telehealth is a way to improve access to care for their patients.
“It is clear from our findings that reimbursement remains one of the largest barriers to the use of telehealth in primary care,” said Bazemore. “However, this seems to be evolving, at least in the private sector, with several national large private carriers reimbursing doctors in 2016, if not earlier.”
Telehealth is one of several important technologies that have been highlighted by clinicians and policy makers as a potential strategy to enhance access to healthcare and reduce costs.
Telehealth was defined in the survey as the use of medical information exchanged from one location to another via electronic communications. This could include using smartphones, e-mail, two-way video and other tools for clinicians to deliver remote clinical care. The majority of those family physicians using telehealth in their practice — 49 percent — reported using real-time video in the past 12 months.
About 15 percent of those who responded to the survey said they used telehealth in their practices. Family physicians reported using telehealth in the following ways:
- 55 percent for diagnoses or treatment
- 26 percent for chronic disease management
- 20 percent for second opinion
- 21 percent for follow-up
- 13 percent for other reasons
- 16 percent for emergency care
- 6 percent for administrative purposes
Family physicians who have practiced less than 10 years and those who practiced in rural settings were more likely to use telehealth, according to the survey results. Physicians typically provided patient diagnoses and treatment with telehealth services. Those who had used telehealth responded more positively to survey questions on its attributes.
Although the majority respondents agreed that telehealth reduces patient travel time and improves access to and continuity of care for patients, telehealth users were more likely to agree. For example, 89 percent of family physicians who provide telehealth services agreed that they improve access to care for patients, while 77 percent of non-users also agreed.
“The survey results proved to us that family physicians are open-minded and optimistic about the benefits of telehealth and that they are willing to use this technology provided they receive appropriate compensation,” said John Jesser, vice president of provider engagement for Anthem, Inc. “As telehealth gains momentum, more outcomes research and input on the quality, convenience and cost of telemedicine from a patient’s perspective will be needed.”
About the survey
Surveys were mailed by the American Academy of Family Physicians to 5,000 randomly selected family physicians, intentionally oversampling rural providers, to discover their attitudes, usage, and beliefs towards telehealth. The response rate was more than 31 percent and the margin of error is plus or minus 5 percent. Data analysis was completed by the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care.
About the Robert Graham Center
The Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care works to improve individual and population health by enhancing the delivery of primary care. The Center staff generates and analyzes evidence that brings a family medicine and primary care perspective to health policy deliberations at local, state, and national levels.
Founded in 1999, the Robert Graham Center is an independent research unit affiliated with the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). The information and opinions contained in research from the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or policy of the AAFP.
About Anthem, Inc.
Anthem is working to transform health care with trusted and caring solutions. Our health plan companies deliver quality products and services that give their members access to the care they need. With over 72 million people served by its affiliated companies, including more than 38 million enrolled in its family of health plans, Anthem is one of the nation’s leading health benefits companies. For more information about Anthem’s family of companies, please visit www.antheminc.com/companies.