AMA Suggests that Telehealth Tech Use Is Up Since 2016, But Still Modest

A new survey has found that physician use of technology to provide telehealth or virtual visits has doubled since its previous study in 2016. This meshes well with other market research suggesting that a healthy cross-section of providers are preparing to get on board. However, despite the increased use of this technology, the absolute number of respondents leveraging these technologies remains modest.

The survey, which was conducted by the AMA, generated responses from 1,300 physicians. Its topline conclusions include that almost 30% of doctors have adopted telehealth tech and that nearly 90% of doctors see some advantage to using it.

Researchers conducting the survey found that key digital health tools being used by physicians include consumer access to clinical data (58%), point of care or workflow enhancements (47%), clinical decision support (37%), patient engagement (33%), remote monitoring for improved care (22%) and remote monitoring for efficiency (16%).

In addition to these tech offerings, physicians were asked to share their thoughts on emerging technologies such as blockchain and AI. It found that while a robust 46% of physicians had become familiar with blockchain, 0% were using it.

The adoption of AI was not much greater. On the one hand, a substantial majority said they were familiar with the use of AI in a long list of environments, including health administration, clinical applications, precision medicine, business operations, population health and research and development functions.

On the other, the number of respondents actually using AI fell into single-digital percentages for virtually every category. The one exception was AI for health administration, which 11% of physicians reported that they were doing.

Given these physicians’ limited interest in telehealth, one would think that virtual visits have little future in healthcare. However, other signs suggest that this is far from the case.

For example, the Cleveland Clinic recently announced the launch of a joint venture with telehealth visit vendor American Well to offer virtual care. Its new venture, known as The Clinic, is blowing past the moderately interesting telehealth visit delivered by its competitors and straight into something tastier. The Clinic will be focused on offering high-acuity services, along with access to a wide range of specialists.

What’s more, a study released in mid-2019 suggests that physician interest in telehealth tools is growing. I took it with a grain of salt given that it was by American Well, but unless the vendor totally doctored its numbers, the trends here are worth considering. For example, it found that 60% of aged 55+ physicians it surveyed were willing to conduct a video visit, followed by 70% of those aged 45 to 54.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.