With the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, many members of the medical community find themselves thrust headlong into the world of telemedicine. With patients no longer able or willing to visit their doctor’s office, practices are using the opportunity to try out telemedicine.
Reckner Healthcare Surveys was curious about what our Panel members were experiencing, so we sent out a survey to the group. More than 1,000 Healthcare Professionals (HCP) responded, sharing their observations, opinions, and advice about telemedicine.
So, how is telemedicine being used? And, is it a game-changer or a necessary development?
Opinions varied widely, but there were several common threads expressed throughout the responses we received:
- Its usefulness depends upon specialty.
- It’s no substitute for a physical examination in many instances.
- It’s likely to be a larger part of medical practice going forward for certain fields and circumstances.
As expected, prior to Covid-19, the vast majority of patient interactions were conducted in person. Since then, that number has been cut by more than half, replaced by patient interactions by phone and video, which have increased 7 times and 15 times respectively.
As phone and video interactions became more prevalent, HCPs observed that patient interactions are generally shorter in length than in-person visits (61% shorter for telephone; 47% shorter for video). However, about 40% of those responding said both video and telephone visits were about the same length as in-person.
Regarding the future use of telemedicine, 75% of HCPs think the use of telemedicine will increase in the future, although 25% think it will go back to pre-pandemic rates.
As for employing telemedicine in your practice, our Healthcare Panel offered both advice and caution, which typically fell into five categories:
Use it appropriately
- Usefulness depends upon specialty
- Better for existing patients
- Useful for follow-ups and refills
- No substitute for a physical exam
- It’s a way to care for patients in today’s environment
- Its use will certainly grow in the future
- Some patients will need or demand it
Can be Helpful
- Useful for rural areas, elderly patients, busy patients, and follow-up visits
- Can be a more efficient way to “see” patients, depending on patient need/ visit requirements
- The staff has to be engaged in preparing patients for each visit
- Set patient expectations (e.g. set up required, payments, length of visit, what can and can’t be accomplished)
- Use HIPAA compliant platform, ideally, one that connects with EMR and is easy for patients to use
- Insurance reimbursement/documentation important
- Diagnosis errors/malpractice issues
- Patient’s acceptance
- HIPAA compliance and data security
One final tip: The AMA has shared a useful guide for telemedicine in practice covering implementation, policies, coding, and other helpful resources. The guide can be found here.