Telemedicine, Health Services

Survey: More than 90% of physicians are treating patients remotely

A survey of more than 1,300 physicians by Sermo showed that the more than 90% of them are treating some or all of their patients through telehealth. Most plan to keep using telehealth to some extent after the pandemic ends.

Telemedicine

Most physicians are seeing patients remotely as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a survey conducted by physician polling website Sermo. The survey of 1,392 physicians, conducted between April 3 and April 14, showed more than 90% of them are conducting some of their patient visits via telehealth.

Though practices in some states are starting to reopen for elective procedures, all of them have seen a sharp decline in patient volumes as a result of the pandemic. Physicians in the U.S. reported a much sharper decline than their peers in other countries. According to the survey, U.S. physicians reported a net decrease in volumes of 67%, compared to a 15% decrease on average across all countries.

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To offset this, many doctors are turning to telehealth for the first time to keep some of their patients. Nearly half of physicians said they used telemedicine for the first time for a physical consultation. Another 43% conducted mental health consultations for the first time over telehealth.

The types of tools physicians are using also showed some variation between countries. In the U.S., more providers reported using telemedicine for a consultation (63%) than physicians in other countries. Video conferencing was popular across all countries, with 47% of U.S. physicians using it. Meanwhile, remote monitoring tools such as wearables or sensors were more widely used in Asia and Europe than in the U.S., where just 8% of physicians reported using them.

Telemedicine consultations were more widely used by physicians in the U.S. than in other countries, according to a survey by Sermo.

After the pandemic ends, healthcare workers expect to keep using telehealth tools more often than they had in the past. Specialties that plan to use them the most include oncology, hematology, cardiology and neurology.

“As a psychiatrist, I was leery of telemedicine for many years. However, both myself and my patients are very pleased with how effective telepsychiatry can be,” one of the survey respondents wrote. “It has its drawbacks, but in this situation it is life-saving. After the emergency, I will continue to see my patients electronically when they wish.”

Roughly 60% of physicians plan to use telehealth more often, with 20% of them saying they expect to use video conferencing or telemedicine tools significantly more often than before.

Most physicians plan to use telehealth tools more often after the pandemic ends, according to Sermo.

That said, it still can’t replace in-person visits in many cases, with physicians exhorting the importance of seeing patients face-to-face.

A cardiologist responding to the survey wrote,”Telemedicine is potentially quite dangerous if not used judiciously and with a full awareness of its limitations, however it is also extremely helpful for patients who have chronic diseases and need ongoing low level support and monitoring. Its role in initial consultations really is a form of triage and direction, planning a battery of tests and procedures so that a patient can minimize their number of visits to a health care setting, but it can’t really replace a full face-to-face assessment and examination for most diseases.”

Photo credit: Courtney Hale, Getty Images