Susan R. Bailey, M.D.
President, American Medical Association
Though telehealth has already improved our access to healthcare, here are a few ways we can continue this positive trend.
Spurred by the pandemic, telehealth has broken down the traditional walls of the exam room to connect patients and physicians safely and effectively. Its adoption has been further aided by sweeping changes implemented by Medicare, individual states, and private insurance companies.
1. Widespread adoption of telehealth
Technological improvements such as remote patient monitoring — combined with the need to maintain physical distancing — have spurred explosive growth in telehealth usage.
AMA research shows that the percentage of physicians utilizing telehealth visits jumped from 14 percent to 28 percent between 2016 and 2019. But, beginning in March, estimates spiked to somewhere between 60 percent and 90 percent.
This fundamental change in how physicians deliver care, and how patients experience it, bodes well for the future. Moving forward, we will need physician leaders, government, and health organizations working collaboratively to ensure that challenges of efficacy, privacy, and equity do not impede growth.
2. It’s an effective tool
Telehealth is an incredibly powerful tool in caring for patients with various forms of chronic disease, the treatment of which absorbs nearly 90 percent of U.S. healthcare spending.
In addition, telehealth is invaluable in preventive care and in treating acute conditions like COVID-19, particularly as it keeps patients from exposing others to the virus. The potential of telehealth can be transformative, but significant work remains to ensure all who need it can gain access.
3. Readily available strategies and methods to boost telehealth
The AMA continues to assemble a broad range of resources designed to help physicians maintain continuity of care in the face of pandemic-related challenges. Continuity of care is an essential consideration for all patients, but it is particularly important in treating those dealing with multiple conditions who may be taking several medications.
The AMA’s newly released Telehealth Implementation Playbook, available for free on their website, outlines a clear efficient path to rapid, scaled implementation of audio and visual visits, along with a wealth of institutional knowledge and best practices curated from experts in the field.