In response to patient demand, physician interest in telemedicine doubles

When it comes to telemedicine, more physicians are getting on board, with interest doubling over a three-year period.

In the first-ever analysis of physician interest in telemedicine, the number of physicians who self-reported telemedicine as a skill doubled between 2015 and 2018 and continues to increase annually by 20%, according to a report from Doximity, the professional medical network.

The interest from physicians matches the growing interest in telemedicine by patients, Peter Alperin, M.D., vice president of connectivity solutions at Doximity, said in an interview with FierceHealthcare. The growth correlates with the increasing number of telemedicine patient visits, which has jumped 261% annually between 2015 and 2017, according to a recent JAMA study.

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In 2016, just over 15% of physicians reported having telemedicine skills. But that number grew to almost 25% in 2018, the report said.

The global telemedicine market is projected to grow to exceed $130.5 billion by 2025.

While one might have thought that younger, more technically savvy doctors would be more interested in telemedicine, the Doximity report found that wasn’t the case.

That was the most surprising fact about the study, said Christopher Whaley, Ph.D., lead author of the report and adjunct assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health.

All age groups, from millennials to baby boomers, were nearly equally interested in telemedicine. However, doctors in the 30- to 40-year-old category had the most interest at 28.4%.

Older physicians may be interested in telemedicine as they transition out of full-time practice or may look at it as a way to add variety to their practice, Alperin speculated.

Women physicians were slightly more interested in telemedicine. The data showed that women were 10% more interested in telemedicine jobs than their male counterparts.

The report also looked at the interest in telemedicine by various specialties. Those in radiology, psychiatry and internal medicine were most interested in telemedicine job postings. Not surprisingly, those in anesthesiology and general surgery were the least interested in telemedicine.