ACP survey shows increase in telehealth usage by physicians

April 10, 2020

The survey was performed in January showing an increase before the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Telehealth usage was on the rise even before the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey from the American College of Physicians (ACP).

The survey results were gathered in January, before many of the measures were put in place which have pushed practices toward telehealth, and showed a wide variation in the use of telehealth among ACP members.

The most popular forms this usage took were e-consults and asynchronous evaluation with about 25 percent of members utilizing the services at least weekly. Followed by video visits which were utilized by 14 percent of members at least weekly, the survey says.

“The survey was conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in the lifting of some regulatory barriers, and has led to rapid adoption of telehealth, whether it’s video visits or phone call visits,” ACP President Robert M. McLean, MD, MACP, says in the survey. “Telehealth delivered remotely is essential to patient care during this public health crisis. It’s concerning that many patients don’t have access to video visits, and must rely on phone call visits as a lifeline to their physician, so we are pleased that CMS announced they will begin paying physicians for patient visits that take place by audio telephone only. At the time of this survey, telephone call visits were not covered by any insurance payers, so no physicians were formally calling them “visits,” so we did not even ask the question.”

According to the survey, 42 percent of members have e-consults available and 20 percent are considering them, while 39 percent have implemented asynchronous evaluation and 18 percent are considering implementing it. Wearable telehealth option are the least available with only 6 percent of respondents having implemented them and 17 percent considering the move.

To help increase the usage of telehealth, the ACP has produced an online CME program titled Telemedicine: A Practical Guide for Incorporation into your Practice. They also produced Telehealth Coding and Billing During COVID-19 which is aimed at making it easier for physicians to care for their patients during the pandemic by providing telehealth coding and billing information.

To learn more about getting started with telehealth, check out Medical Economics Pulse videos about starting a new telehealth program and tips for beginners.