Telehealth adoption still slow among family physicians

Despite the belief that telehealth could improve access and continuity of care for patients, just 15 percent of family physicians in a national survey had used telehealth in the previous year, according to an article at American Family Physician.

The 2014 member survey by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) garnered 1,557 responses.

Seventy-eight percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that telehealth improves access to care, while 68 percent said that it improves the continuity of care for their patients. The biggest barriers cited were lack of training (54 percent), lack of reimbursement (53 percent), cost of equipment (45 percent), and potential liability issues (41 percent).

Strategies to overcome these barriers included offering new training opportunities, payers increasing awareness of current reimbursement opportunities and developing new ways to reimburse the services.

The use of virtual health technology in primary care could save $10 billion a year and allow treatment of more patients without the need to train more doctors, an Accenture report published last fall found.

William Thornbury, M.D., an AAFP member and founder of an online appointment site called meVisit, told the group's State Legislative Conference in November that family physicians must adopt telehealth to remain competitive with retail health clinics.

Medical education for the future must include physician training in telehealth to ensure effective use and proper quality of care, according to a viewpoint from members of the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

To learn more:
- here's the article