Enthusiasm is growing, but there is room to grow

Most doctors say they see the value in telehealth and remote patient monitoring, but they’re just beginning to incorporate augmented intelligence, according to a survey by the American Medical Association.

Doctors are increasingly using digital health tools and expressing more enthusiasm for employing them more in the future, according to a survey by the American Medical Association.

While physicians plan to use some emerging technologies, only a small portion of physicians are using augmented intelligence in their practices, according to the AMA study.

The AMA surveyed 1,300 physicians in 2016, 2019 and 2022. During this six-year period, physicians expressed greater appreciation for digital health tools and their ability to improve patient care.

More than 9 in 10 physicians (93%) said digital health tools can improve patient care in 2022, up from 86% in 2016. The increases were seen among primary care physicians and specialists, and they were consistent across all age groups, the AMA said.

Doctors are increasingly using digital tools to help care for patients remotely.

It is perhaps unsurprising that physicians’ use of telehealth has skyrocketed over the six-year period. By 2022, 80% of physicians were performing telehealth visits, a huge increase from 2016, when only 14% of physicians were performing virtual care. Telehealth care has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, and health care groups are lobbying Washington to extend telehealth waivers.

Physicians are also increasingly using remote patient monitoring in patient care. Nearly a third of physicians (30%) reported using remote patient monitoring in 2022, up from 12% in 2016. With remote patient monitoring, physicians and healthcare systems are using devices to help monitor patients with chronic diseases, such as diabetes or hypertension, and possibly intervene earlier if necessary.

Jack Resneck Jr., president of the AMA, said in a statement that the survey shows physicians see the value in digital health tools.

“The rate of adoption of digital health tools by physicians has accelerated as physicians become increasingly optimistic about the benefits that well-designed digital health tools can have for patient care if key requirements are met,” Resneck said. “The AMA survey illustrates the importance physicians place on validated digital health tools that improve health while streamlining the technological and administrative burdens encountered every day in medicine.”

At the same time, Resneck said digital tools must be used to help reduce health care disparities among disadvantaged groups. “These technologies must also be designed and deployed in a way that advances health equity,” Resneck said.

While there have been encouraging results on the use of telehealth, a federal report released earlier this year found that black, Hispanic, and Asian patients were less likely to use video telehealth services. Some healthcare advocates have also warned that telehealth services need to be improved so people with visual impairments can have easier access to virtual care.

Physicians showed the most enthusiasm for telehealth (57%) and remote patient monitoring (53%), according to the survey.

Only a small percentage of doctors are currently using augmented intelligence in their practice, but the survey found that more doctors plan to do so in the near future. Currently, less than one in five physicians are using augmented intelligence, but nearly two in five said they plan to do so within the next year.

Doctors said they used 3.8 digital tools on average in 2022, up from 2.2 in 2016, the survey found.

About 3 in 5 physicians said digital tools helped improve patient care, as well as reduce administrative burdens on staff.

Most doctors expressed confidence in using digital tools to improve patient care, according to surveys. Last month, the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) released a report indicating that most physicians welcome the use of digital tools to help patients manage disease.

However, health systems need to give physicians proper training so they can use digital health tools effectively, said Darryl Gibbings-Isaac, senior manager of Accenture’s health strategy practice, during a briefing. HIMSS forum in August.

“If they don’t understand how to use them,” he said, “how can they put them to work for their patients?”

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