3 ways to improve physician engagement with telemedicine

To move past reluctance by physicians to engage with telemedicine, Robert Pearl, M.D., says there will need to be "effective leadership from physician-leaders who have the credibility to influence their colleagues' behavior."

Pearl, executive director and CEO of Permanente Medical Group and president and CEO of the Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group, writes at NEJM Catalyst that "crucial steps" must be taken to get physicians to embrace the new technology.

Some of those steps include:

  • Explain the value: Guidelines alone won't get physicians on the telemedicine bandwagon; they must know how it will help their patients and why it's an important step forward in effective care. Physician-leaders must share stories and anecdotes of real patients who were helped via telemedicine, Pearl says.
  • Consider workload: If physicians see telemedicine as added work, they will be less likely to accept it, Pearl says. To lessen the burden, practices should consider having staff around to help with virtual visits and reward specialty physicians for adding new consultations no matter whether they are in-person or virtual.
  • Don't forget culture: At Permanente Medical Group, Pearl says they make sure physicians know they are supported and won't be penalized for using telemedicine. In addition, the organization last year gave its physicians an iPhone and paid for data plans so they can communicate with colleagues and patients at no extra cost.

The rise of telemedicine also will require that medical education cover new skills to teach future physicians how to use it effectively and ensure proper quality of care, according to a viewpoint published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

To learn more:
- read the NEJM Catalyst article