Survey Shows Practitioners Leaning Toward Telemedicine Future

JUNE 22, 2020
Kevin Kunzmann
More than three-fourths of US healthcare providers are worried about the logistics of ensuring a safe environment for the patients when reopening their practices after the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, according to findings from an MJH Life Sciences Survey.

As such, another 35% of healthcare workers expressed intention to continue telemedicine use going forward.

In results from a 1300-plus participant State of the Physician online survey conducted over the last month, more than 76% of expressed utmost concern for creating a safe environment for their patients and staff upon re-opening.

telemedicine

A majority of respondents also stated worry for risking viral exposure to themselves (53%) and the chance of the pandemic worsening (55.5%) in the event that their in-person practice reopened.

The State of the Physician survey, conducted by HCPLive® head company MJH Life Sciences, was designed to pulse physicians and healthcare providers across varied specialties on the short-term and long-term effects of COVID-19. The survey gauged respondents on the their levels of patient communication, the financial impact of the pandemic, their office visit policies, their practice management, and of course, their use of telemedicine.

Responses were substantial enough to provide tailored insights on the following specialties:
  • Dermatology
  • Neurology
  • OB/GYN
  • Oncology
  • Ophthalmology
  • Pediatrics
  • Primary Care
  • Psychiatry
  • Rheumatology
  • Urology
The survey was completed by 1040 (78.6%) physicians, 131 (9.9%) nurse practitioners and physician assistants, 31 (2.3%) nurses, 34 (2.6%) practice administrators, 29 (2.2%) clinical staff members), 8 (0.6%) non-clinical staff members, and 51 (3.9%) other positions.

Respondents primarily worked at a private independent practice (45%), followed by hospitals/health systems (24%) and group practices (19.6%).

On a 1-5 scale—with greater numbers indicating greater use—respondents noted telehealth (mean, 4.35) has been the most implemented method of communication during COVID-19. Respondents also reported greater mean use of teleconference apps (4.24) and telephone calls (4.2) than email (3.38) or health-system patient portals (3.37). Based on a scale of 1-10—with greater numbers again indicating increased frequency—respondents reported they were communicating only slightly more than usual (5.7) with their patients during the pandemic.

Among the most frequently discussed topics between patients and providers during the pandemic have been acute disease needs and diagnoses (70.4%), chronic disease management (59%), and COVID-19 related information and updates (54.2%).

In oncology, respondents downplayed the importance of telemedicine training for the field moving forward—rating it a mean 3.75 on a 1-10 scale. Mean ratings of importance for telemedicine training were even lower among respondents in urology (2.62), pediatrics (3.46), OB/GYN (3.40), and dermatology (3.40).

Despite nearly half of all relevant respondents (47.2%) reporting to being new to telepsychiatry, most (61.1%) have already found it to be a beneficial practice. Nearly all respondents in psychiatry have observed an increase in isolation- or stress-related anxiety among patients (97.2%), as well as depression (75.6%).

More than one-third (36.1%) have observed an increased rate of trauma among patients during the pandemic.

Among ophthalmologists, the most commonly practiced communication protocol for new patients have been phone screening and practices set for safety from infection risk.

Rheumatologists mostly reported difficulties with providing technology capability and access to their older patient population, and notably observed an increased rate of such patients seeking reassurance of their safety during the pandemic.

In primary care specialists, nearly two-thirds (63.9%) of respondents confirmed they have communicated COVID-19 testing opportunities provided by their practice to patients. More than half (54.7%) expressed desire to continue using telemedicine and other remote services very frequently at the end of the pandemic.

The greatest challenge reported by primary care respondents was patient unavailability—23% reported their patients were limited by access to smart phones or internet.

Related Coverage >>>
Copyright© MD Magazine 2006-2020 Intellisphere, LLC. All Rights Reserved.