AMA Telehealth Study: Positive Results

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According to a recent telehealth survey conducted by the American Medical Association (AMA), telehealth services are delivered in various ways, such as live, interactive video visits, telehealth phone calls, and remote patient monitoring technologies. The most rising and preferred way is audio-only telehealth visits, as more than two-thirds of healthcare providers said they use audio-only telehealth visits to offer services.

How Telehealth Ranks in the AMA Telehealth Study

The American Medical Association (AMA) conducted a survey with 2,232 physician participants for eight weeks between November 1, 2021, through December 31, 2021. The telehealth survey aimed to gain insight into physician experiences with telehealth, current and expected future use to inform ongoing telehealth research and advocacy, resource development, and continued support for physicians, practices, and health systems. Approximately 85% of the participant’s responses indicated that they are currently using telehealth visits. Almost 60% of respondents agree telehealth enables them to provide high-quality care.

Types of Technology Reportedly Used 

Of those physicians using telehealth, 93% conduct live, interactive video visits, while 69% offer audio-only telehealth visits. Asynchronous, store-and-forward telehealth, involving recorded video interaction rather than live video interaction, came in at 12%, putting it at a distant third-place position for the type of technology used by the respondents. A substantial 56% claimed to be motivated (agree and strongly agree) to increase telehealth use in their practices. An impressive 8% of respondents said they used remote patient monitoring technologies with patients, including smartphones (camera), blood pressure cuffs, pulse oximeters, and body weight scales. Interestingly, 76% of physicians reported that health data is shared manually (e.g., verbally over the phone or via email).

Telehealth: Other Key Findings of the AMA Telehealth Study 

The AMA telehealth study reported that telehealth is most widely used to deliver the following services:

  • Treatment: 77%
  • Screenings: 72%
  • Follow up care: 70%

It is also commonly used to provide the following services:

  • Medication Management: 72%
  • Chronic Disease Management: 68%
  • Specialty Care 49%
  • Behavioral Health: 44%

AMA Telehealth Study: Patient Factors

A full 44% of physician respondents indicated that telehealth decreased care costs for their patients. While 54% of physicians felt telehealth had improved their professional experiences, 62% felt it increased patient and client satisfaction. However, the physicians noted drawbacks, including a potential decrease in COVID-19 waivers, lack of insurance coverage, and continued ambiguity in payment policies.

Implications for the Future of Telehealth

Although the AMA telehealth study was conducted with only a sample of physicians in the US, some important implications are worth noting when thinking about the future of telehealth. First, there is a substantial increase in provider telehealth satisfaction, which extends to all primary forms of telehealth: live two-way interactive video telehealth, audio-only telehealth, and store-and-forward telehealth. The positive results of this survey also highlight the need for Congress and individual state legislators to provide permanent access to telehealth services for Medicare patients. It is noteworthy that President Biden and the US Congress are steadily coming closer to approving telehealth in many forms. President Biden recently signed off on a spending package that will extend temporary telehealth waivers enacted during the pandemic for Medicare recipients. The extension will keep the waivers valid for five months after the pandemic emergency expires. It will also cover audio-only telehealth visits. See details here: Unprecedented Telehealth Support through Omnibus Appropriations & Coronavirus Relief Spending Bills.

Also, see TBHI Telehealth.org’s previous articles related to audio-only telehealth visits for related information.

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