- Many healthcare organizations are struggling to implement a broad telemedicine program due to poor physician buy-in, a new Deloitte report finds.
- In recent surveys conducted by the group, 64% of consumers cited convenience and access as key benefits of virtual care, while doctors noted improved access to care (66%), higher patient satisfaction (52%) and staying connected with patients and their caregivers (45%).
- Yet while 23% of consumers said they have used video visits and 57% said they are willing to try, just 14% of physicians currently have video capabilities and only 18% of those who don’t plan to add the capability in the next year or two.
Lack of reimbursement, a patchwork of state licensing requirements and the cost of the technology itself have discouraged many doctors from adopting telehealth. Physicians in the study also pointed to concerns about medical errors (36%) and data security and patient privacy (33%).
At the same time, the shift to value-based care is creating incentives for new care delivery models that increase access and improve outcomes while reducing healthcare costs — including virtual care. In a 2017 Reach Health survey of 436 healthcare professionals, 36% said their organization had an enterprise approach to telemedicine and 25% said they were moving from a department to enterprise approach.
“[W]ith the changing reimbursement models, growing consumer demand, and advances in digital technologies, virtual care is a must-have for health systems, and they will now need to help physicians adopt virtual capabilities,” the report said.
While the study found low rates of physician adoption of virtual care, other responses suggest bringing them on board may not be that hard to do. For example, between 58% and 69% of physicians with experience using any of seven virtual care technologies said they expect to increase their use.
To increase buy-in, organizations need to engage frontline physicians in setting short- and medium-term virtual care goals, plan for the necessary infrastructure and align clinicians and staff to support the technology.
Identifying clinical “champions” can help raise awareness about the benefits of telemedicine, the report says. Providing specialized training can also quell concerns about new workflows and working with new technologies.
Organizations may also need to adapt their compensation models — for example, adding new consultations as a performance metric for specialists — to ensure doctors aren’t penalized for substituting virtual care for in-person visits.
“Treating virtual care encounters as equivalent to in-person ... and having the necessary staff support (IT, nursing) can reinforce the notion that virtual care is not just another fad or administrative requirement but a new way of operating," according to the report.