Over three-quarters of US specialists increased use of telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic, says GlobalData

Use of telemedicine by US physicians has increased significantly as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. In a survey conducted by data and analytics company GlobalData*, 79% of specialists indicated that their use of telemedicine technology had increased as a result of the pandemic, while 20% indicated that their use had stayed the same.

Kathryn Whitney, MSc, Director of Thematic Analysis, comments: “COVID-19 may be the tipping point for telemedicine as the full potential of the technology is increasingly realized by patients, healthcare systems and payers. As a result of the pandemic, regulations and policies governing reimbursement and use of telemedicine have changed significantly, leading to expanded access and an unprecedented demand for these services.”

GlobalData’s latest research report, ‘Use of Telemedicine During the COVID-19 Pandemic in the US’, has revealed that less than half of surveyed specialists indicated that they were using telemedicine to treat their patients prior to the pandemic, with just 30% using it in 1–20% of their patients. Of the 79% of respondents who reported an increase in use, almost 30% reported an increase of between 81–100%, while 13% indicated an increase of 61–80%.

Whitney continues: “Telemedicine has been critical during the COVID-19 pandemic to limit the risk of person-to-person transmission of the virus and to reduce the burden on overwhelmed healthcare systems. In GlobalData’s survey, US specialists were asked whether they would use telemedicine once the pandemic had abated. Over 75% indicated they would continue to use the technology, while 24% reported that they would not use it in the future. Most specialists who did not foresee using the technology indicated that they need to see their patients in person in order to carry out examinations, while several also noted that future reimbursement or payer policies could be an issue.”

Recent changes to reimbursement regulations in the US have rapidly expanded access to telemedicine services during the pandemic, and it appears that some of these changes may be made permanent in the future.

Whitney adds: “Changes in regulation will be important in providing solutions to improving access to care for underserved and rural populations and providing affordable care to the uninsured.”

Telemedicine can assist in physician shortages by increasing practice efficiency and capacity, as well as reduce healthcare costs for primary and secondary care providers by lowering burdens on resources and reducing hospitalization rates and emergency room visits. This is particularly pertinent for the management of chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, and heart disease, which cost the US healthcare system billions every year.

* Survey conducted between May 27 and July 2 on 70 specialists across cardiology, gastroenterology, pulmonology and respiratory fields

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