Why Are More Than 70% of MDs Suddenly Pro-Telehealth?

If anyone had suggested five years ago that the majority of American doctors were pro-telehealth, that person would have been met with skepticism and consternation. Five years ago, getting doctors to adopt telehealth was a gargantuan task. Things are just the opposite now. But why? What happened to convince MDs to jump on board the telehealth train?

Science-Based Medicine Executive Editor Steven Novella, MD suggests that the answer is time and experience – with a healthy dose of COVID restrictions thrown in. His thoughts are echoed by CSI Health, a San Antonio provider of advanced telehealth solutions.

Both Novella and CSI Health officials say that the COVID pandemic forced America’s doctors to use telehealth solutions when hospitals and clinics were closed. In many cases, actually using telehealth in a meaningful way was the only thing necessary to change minds. That is exactly what happened.

The Majority Want It

Novella makes the case that MDs are not just more accepting of telemedicine three years after the start of the pandemic. He says they actually want to use it. He cites American Medical Association (AMA) data showing that more than 70% of surveyed physicians are now motivated to increase telehealth deployment.

That is an incredible number. But don’t stop there. The AMA data also shows that:

  • 85% believe telehealth increases timeliness of care
  • 75% say telehealth allows them to deliver high-quality care.

These two statistics are amazing. Why? Because timeliness and quality of care have been the two biggest arguments against telemedicine for the last 20 years. MDs have long argued that they cannot possibly deliver the same quality remotely. They have argued that trying to work remote visits into their schedules will not work, leaving patients having to wait too long for care.

Fortunately for both patients and the telehealth industry, both criticisms were proved flat-out wrong during the COVID pandemic. That could explain why so many MDs are now suddenly pro-telehealth.

Efficiency and Convenience Can’t Be Denied

There could very well be dozens of reasons clinicians are suddenly in favor of telehealth. Chances are that efficiency and convenience are at the top of the list. The fact is that telehealth increases the efficiency of healthcare delivery. It does so by reducing or completely eliminating the wasted time and resources office visits are known for.

Telehealth is also more convenient for both doctors and patients. Conducting visits remotely means patients don’t have to travel to and from the office. It means doctors do not have to wander from one exam room to the next. More patients can be seen in the same amount of time, thereby making a doctor more productive throughout the course of a day. What’s not to love?

Best for Primary Care and Mental Health

CSI Health is quick to point out that telehealth solutions are not suitable for every need. From an administrative standpoint, telehealth works effectively pretty much across the board. But when it comes to the actual delivery of services – what the industry refers to more succinctly as telemedicine – it’s most appropriate for primary care and mental health.

Primary care and mental health visits rarely go beyond a patient-doctor conversations. The doctor asks questions, the patient answers. The patient explains how they are feeling; the doctor listens and takes notes. All of that can be done via videoconferencing software.

Three years after the start of the COVID pandemic, the majority of American MDs are actually looking to increase their utilization of telehealth. That’s amazing. It is further proof that telehealth is here to stay. The only remaining question is how prevalent its use will become.