PHILADELPHIA — Telehealth has the “tremendous potential” to improve access to care for patients, enhance patient-physician collaboration, improve health outcomes, increase patient satisfaction and reduce medical costs, Ana Maria Lopez, MD, president of ACP, said during a press briefing at the ACP Internal Medicine Meeting.
“While the use of telehealth is not prevalent, it is growing and gaining momentum,” Lopez said. “It has tremendous potential to improve access to care for patients and to enhance patient-physician collaboration. Telemedicine is definitely gaining momentum.”
Lopez noted that ACP recognizes the many factors, such as patchwork reimbursement, that can make adoption of telemedicine by clinicians difficult.
ACP administered a survey to a random sample of 1,449 members in October 2018 and January 2019 to determine the availability and use of telemedicine.
The survey revealed that 51% of respondents reported that their practice implements one or more different types of telehealth technologies, such as video visits, physician-to-physician e-consults, remote patient monitoring at home, regular remote management and coaching by phone or video technologies and collection of data from patient wearables. About 20% reported that they use video technologies in their practice and of those, 20% reported use at least once a week.
There was a wide variability in use by internists and specialists depending on the type of application, according to Lopez.
ACP also found that physicians struggled with how to incorporate telemedicine safely and effectively into practice and wanted to know how it could be better integrated.
Physicians should first figure out which patients are good candidates for telehealth and how to change their procedures and incorporate these types of visits into practice workflows, Tabassum Salam, MD, vice president for medical education at ACP, advised.
“In order to help our members and ease them into integrating these technologies into their practices, ACP plans to develop and release resources and guidance on appropriate use cases, current state of reimbursement and regulatory issues,” Salam said.
Telehealth has been proven to be highly effective when used strategically by improving access to care and reducing readmissions, Andrew Dunn, MD, chair of the board of regents of ACP, said during the briefing.
“ACP feels strongly that telehealth is a very valuable tool to improve access, quality and decrease cost especially when used in a setting and context of established physician-patient relationship,” he said. – by Alaina Tedesco
Disclosures: Dunn, Lopez and Salam are employed by ACP.