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American College of Physicians survey shows increased telehealth usage among internists and subspecialists

Philadelphia, PA (April 9, 2020) – Today the American College of Physicians (ACP) released the results of a January 2020 survey showing wide variation in the use of telehealth among internal medicine physicians and subspecialists who are members of ACP. The survey evaluated the availability of technology, as well as frequency of use, for six different categories of telehealth services.  Overall, e-consults and asynchronous evaluation (of data submitted through a patient portal or other secure system) are the most widely used services, with one out of four ACP members using each of these at least weekly. Video visits are used at least weekly by 14% of members. 

ACP surveyed a random sample of 1,972 members in the U.S. aged 65 and younger between December 2019 and January 2020. Completed responses were received from 231 members (11.7 percent response rate) providing patient care (49 percent general internal medicine, 24 percent hospital medicine, and 26 percent subspecialists). 

“The survey was conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in the lifting of some regulatory barriers, and has led to rapid adoption of telehealth, whether it’s video visits or phone call visits,” said ACP President Robert M. McLean, MD, MACP. “Telehealth delivered remotely is essential to patient care during this public health crisis. It’s concerning that many patients don’t have access to video visits, and must rely on phone call visits as a lifeline to their physician, so we are pleased that CMS announced they will begin paying physicians for patient visits that take place by audio telephone only. At the time of this survey, telephone call visits were not covered by any insurance payers, so no physicians were formally calling them “visits,” so we did not even ask the question.”

Survey Results:

Year-over-year change in weekly use among all members (as opposed to just those with technology)

Note: Hospitalists were excluded from the 2019 survey, so this chart shows the 2020 results excluding hospitalists as well. This provides an accurate year-over-year comparison. The 2019 survey did not ask about asynchronous evaluation, so that is excluded from this graph.

Additional key findings of ACP's survey include:

  • Use of video visits, remote monitoring, and remote management have all grown significantly over the past year.
  • Use of various telehealth services varies by specialty. Hospitalists were using video visits and e-consults at more than twice the rate as subspecialists. General internists and subspecialists were most likely to be using asynchronous evaluation of data/images.
  • Subspecialists were not using e-consults as much as general internists and hospitalists. This is primarily a result of subspecialists not having the technology implemented; those with the technology are using e-consults at a similar rate across specialties.
  • By rural vs. non-rural locations, video visits were the only category with a noticeably higher rate of technology implementation. Where the technologies are available, remote monitoring and remote care management were both used significantly more often in rural practices.

ACP recently launched “Telemedicine: A Practical Guide for Incorporation into your Practice,” an online CME program to help physicians implement telemedicine. ACP also released “Telehealth Coding and Billing During COVID-19” to make it easier for physicians to continue care for their patients during the pandemic. It provides telehealth coding and billing information, whether COVID-19 related or not, as well as payer policies, and practice financial and management tips. 

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About the American College of Physicians
The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States with members in more than 145 countries worldwide. ACP membership includes 159,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Contact: Edward Vassallo, (215) 351-2761, EVassallo@acponline.org