The American Medical Association has released its telehealth survey report from 2021. The survey was run for 8 weeks between November 1, 2021, through December 31, 2021. The report shares the latest facts about the use of telehealth among physicians. 

A significantly high number (85%) of physicians said that they use telehealth, and more than 50% believed that telehealth could improve the quality of care. Around 65% of physicians felt most of the telehealth visits they provide replace care delivered in-person. Of the physicians who did not use telehealth during the time of survey, 43% said that they did provide telehealth at some point during the COVID-19 pandemic. Physicians who had reduced the use of telehealth stated that they were doing a mix of in-person and telehealth visits. 

Most physicians using telehealth were conducting live video visits via Zoom as opposed to audio-only visits. Not only did a majority of physicians use the modern way to medicine, 56% reported that they are motivated to increase their use of telehealth in future.  

More than 80% respondents believed that telehealth offers better healthcare access to patients. And another 62% also indicated that patients using telehealth have higher satisfaction. The satisfaction of physician work also improved with the use of telehealth, according to 54% respondents. 

More than half the telehealth services were delivered to patients with whom the physicians had an established patient/physician relationship. The telehealth services offered by most practices and organizations included medical management (72%), chronic disease management (68%), specialty care (49%), mental/behavioral health (44%), urgent care (37%), and primary care (37%). 

Most common reasons for continuing care via telehealth include reducing patient barriers to access care, reducing unnecessary patient costs, increasing patient satisfaction, and the fact that virtual care has been clinically effective.  

The biggest barrier to providing telehealth was the digital divide. Most patients had limited access to technology and had limited tech literacy. Other common barriers were the lack of insurer coverage of telehealth services and roll back of COVID-19 waivers, coverage, and payment policies. 

It seems that the use of telehealth will continue to exist past the pandemic. We are glad to see the US federal government moving to provide low-cost high-speed broadband Internet access to disadvantaged families and the elderly, which should help support further growth of telehealth usage. We hope for better insurance coverage and policies to support Internet healthcare services.