The Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care sent surveys to more than 5,000 randomly selected phyicians, intentionally oversampling rural ones, and received a high 31% response (1,557 respondents). Fifteen percent of the respondents indicated that they used telehealth according to the report on the analysis the data (the terms telehealth and telemedicine are used interchangeably in this report), “Family Physicians and Telehealth: Findings from a National Survey”, co-written by six authors, which is available now.
Compared with non-users, family physicians who use telehealth are more likely to practice in a rural location, be younger, have practiced for 10 or fewer years, and employ an electronic health record (EHR), says the report. Almost half (49 percent) of telehealth users practice as part of an organization that is not physician owned (e.g., an integrated health or hospital system). More than half of telehealth users reported using telehealth one to five times in the past year, while more than 23 percent reported using telehealth on more than 20 occasions during the same period. Almost half of telehealth users stated they had used real-time video consultations in the past 12 months. In addition, 55 percent of surveyed telehealth users had used telehealth services for diagnosis or treatment in the past 12 months, and one-fourth of surveyed telehealth users reported using telehealth services for chronic disease management.
Both users and non-users indicated that they believe that barriers to using telehealth in their practice include the cost of equipment, lack of training and lack of reimbursement by insurers. Overall, the findings of this survey confirm that family physicians see promise in the ability of telehealth to improve access to primary care services. The findings also suggest that telehealth is on the cusp of advancing from a tool used occasionally to a tool implemented on a routine basis. However, use of telehealth services will not become widely adopted until health systems are reformed to address barriers says the report.
The Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care is an arm of the American Academy of Family Physicians and is a center for policy studies in family practice and primary care in Washington, DC, responsible for research and analysis to inform deliberations of the Academy in its public policy work and to provide a family medicine perspective to policy deliberations.
The telehealth report was funded by Anthem Inc, a health insurance company providing family health plans through several subsidiary companies.