A recent report from the American Medical Association (AMA) underscores the profound impact of telehealth on the healthcare landscape, revealing that 74.4% of physicians now incorporate telehealth into their medical practices. This remarkable surge, nearly three times the figure from 2018, demonstrates the pivotal role telehealth plays in modern healthcare, as outlined in the AMA Recovery Plan for America's Physicians.
The AMA, at the forefront of advocating for telehealth expansion, emphasizes the importance of sustaining policies that support this mode of care. The organization leads the charge in promoting telehealth policy, research, and resources to ensure its widespread adoption, physician practice sustainability, and equitable payment.
Videoconferencing with patients emerges as the primary driver of this shift, with availability soaring over four times higher in 2022 compared to four years earlier. The AMA Policy Research Perspectives report on telehealth reveals that only 14.3% of physicians had the capability to video conference with patients in 2018, a figure that has surged to 66.3% in 2022. Remote-patient monitoring has also witnessed substantial growth, rising to 21.5% in 2022 from 10.4% in 2018.
While the immediate surge in telehealth usage was prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the AMA report notes that remote visits have seamlessly integrated into mainstream healthcare delivery. According to Carol K. Kane, PhD, the AMA's director of economics and health policy research, "telehealth and especially remote visits with patients have become part of the mainstream way in which physicians deliver care."
The AMA acknowledges telehealth as a vital tool in reducing health inequities and enhancing patient access to care. Research cited in the report indicates that telehealth and in-person diagnoses align nearly 90% of the time, highlighting the reliability and efficacy of remote healthcare delivery.
Telehealth's role in managing chronic diseases has been a notable success, with 54.9% of physicians in 2022 reporting its use in treating patients with chronic conditions—a substantial increase from 9.9% in 2018. Additionally, 49.8% used telehealth for diagnosing or treating patients, up from 15.6% in 2018.
The report also delves into the varied usage patterns among specialists, showcasing that 83.1% of psychiatrists provided a video visit in the week preceding the survey. Comparatively, primary care physicians, medical specialists, and surgeons reported rates of 66.8%, 64.3%, and 45.3%, respectively.
Medicare claims data further emphasizes the impact of telehealth, revealing that while telehealth accounted for 3% of total 2022 spending, psychiatrists saw a substantial 33% share. Endocrinology, the next highest specialty, accounted for 9% of telehealth spending.
As telehealth continues to evolve into an integral component of healthcare delivery, the AMA's commitment to expanding policies, research, and resources reflects a collective effort to ensure the sustainability and effectiveness of telehealth practices, aligning with the organization's vision for the future of healthcare.