US physicians' perspective on the sudden shift to telehealth: Survey study

Bhavneet Walia, Anshu Shridhar, Pratap Arasu, Gursimar Kaur Singh

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Given the sudden shift to telemedicine during the early COVID-19 pandemic, we conducted a survey of practicing physicians' experience with telehealth during the prepandemic and early pandemic periods. Our survey estimates that most patient visits in the United States during the early COVID-19 pandemic period were conducted via telehealth. Given this magnitude and the potential benefits and challenges of telehealth for the US health care system, in this paper, we obtain, summarize, and analyze telehealth views and experiences of US-based practicing-physicians. Objective: The aim of this study was to examine the extent of shift toward telehealth training and care provision during the early pandemic from the US-based practicing physicians' perspective. We also sought to determine the short- and long-term implications of this shift on the quality, access, and mode of US health care delivery. Methods: We conducted a purposive, snowball-sampled survey of US practicing-physicians. A total of 148 physician completed the survey. Data were collected from July 17, 2020, through September 4, 2020. Results: Sample training intensity scaled 21-fold during the early pandemic period, and patient-care visits conducted via telehealth increased, on average, from 13.1% directly before the pandemic to 59.7% during the early pandemic period. Surveyed physician respondents reported that telehealth patient visits and face-to-face patient visits are comparable in quality. The difference was not statistically significant based on a nonparametric sign test (P=.11). Moreover, physicians feel that telehealth care should continue to play a larger role (44.9% of total visits) in postpandemic health care in the United States. Our survey findings suggest a high market concentration in telehealth software, which is a market structural characteristic that may have implications on the cost and access of telehealth. The results varied markedly by physician employer type. Conclusions: During the shift toward telehealth, there has been a considerable discovery among physicians regarding US telehealth physicians. Physicians are now better prepared to undertake telehealth care from a training perspective. They are favorable toward a permanently expanded telehealth role, with potential for enhanced health care access, and the realization of enhanced access may depend on market structural characteristics of telehealth software platforms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere26336
JournalJMIR Human Factors
Volume8
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2021

Keywords

  • Access
  • COVID-19
  • Health care access
  • Health care quality
  • Implication
  • Pandemic
  • Perspective
  • Physician
  • Physician survey
  • Policy
  • Public health
  • Quality
  • Recommendation
  • Snowball sampling
  • Survey
  • Telehealth
  • Telemedicine
  • US telehealth care
  • US telehealth training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Human Factors and Ergonomics

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