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Digital healthcare tools growing in popularity, AMA survey finds


Doctors are adopting digital healthcare tools in greater numbers since 2016.

More physicians than ever before are adopting digital healthcare tools into their practices to improve efficiency and safety, according to a survey from the American Medical Association (AMA).

The AMA first performed the survey of physicians in 2016, and the 2019 refresh of the data found an upward trend in opinions of the technology but found there is still room for improvement in terms of adoption of and scaling of digital healthcare tools, the survey says.

“The rise of the digital-native physician will have a profound impact on health care and patient outcomes and will place digital health technologies under pressure to perform according to higher expectations,” AMA Board Chair Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, MD, says in a statement. “The AMA survey provides deep insight into the emerging requirements that physicians expect from digital technologies and sets an industry guidepost for understanding what a growing number of physicians require to adopt new technology.”

The survey looked at the adoption rates of seven categories of healthcare tools that engage patients for clinical purposes, interpret and use clinical data, and manage outcomes and other measures of care quality:

·      Tele-visits/virtual visits – adoption doubled from 14 percent to 28 percent which is the largest increase in the survey

·      Remote monitoring and management – adoption grew from 13 percent to 22 percent

·      Remote monitoring for efficiency – adoption grew from 12 percent to 16 percent

·      Clinical decision support – adoption grew from 28 percent to 37 percent

·      Patient engagement – adoption grew from 26 percent to 32 percent

·      Point of care/workflow enhancement – adoption increased from 42 percent to 47 percent

·      Consumer access to digital data – adoption grew from 53 percent to 58 percent

While all categories saw an increase, the greatest was seen in tele-visits/virtual visits which the survey ascribes to a significant increase in the importance physicians place in providing remote care to patients.

The survey also found that the most important factors driving physician interest in these tools were improved efficiency and increased patient safety, while addressing patient adherence, convenience, and physician burnout have also increased in importance. Liability coverage is still the most important requirement for adoption of these tools, while EHR integration and data privacy also ranked in the responses.

The survey also found an increase in physician awareness of emerging technology like augmented intelligence, blockchain, and precision medicine, which outstripped adoption levels of the technology. 

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Jennifer N. Lee, MD, FAAFP
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