Are many doctors too traditional to keep pace with technology? That question was answered with a resounding “no” in a US poll of physicians, in which 57% (out of the 2000+ respondents) said that they would agree to do video consultations.
Why doctor time is becoming tighter
The United States has a shortage of doctors. And that problem will only become more severe over the next five years. By the end of the decade, the Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that we will have 90,000 fewer doctors than we need. Half of that shortage represents primary care doctors.
The primary reason is more patients! Baby boomers are aging and the Affordable Care Act has greatly increased demand for doctors – especially primary care physaicians. http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2012/10/20/doctors-shortage-least-most/1644837/ USA Today, which added that one in three physicians will retire by 2020. In other words, along with the impact of Obamacare, the baby boom is negatively influencing patient-doctor ratios on both the demand and supply sides.
Majority willing to use video
Only 12% said they would not agree to meet with patients through video, while 31% said they were unsure. Why do most doctors want video?
- Desire to have more personal time
- Positive effect on revenue
- Better outcomes.
The study, conducted by market research company Tractica, forecasts that eConsults (a.k.a. telehealth video visits) would rise from the 20 million that occurred last year to 158 million in 2020.
“There’s a sea change going on within the physician community,” said American Well CEO Roy Schoenberg, MD. “Doctors see value in virtual visits for their patients and also in managing their own work-life balance.”
How could this tool be used other than in urgent care situations? The vast majority of physicians said this type of visit would be acceptable for:
- medication management (86%)
- chronic condition management (80%)
- behavioral health (70%).
In fact, doctors don’t just want to use these systems to interact with patients but with their colleagues. Three in five doctors said that they would be likelier to refer patients to a hospital that allowed them to communicate with specialists by video.
The issue of security
Many physicians are reasonably concerned about the issue of patient data security – both because of confidentiality ethics and because they want to avoid sizable fines from the HHS. However, video consultations simply makes sense.
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