COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition Surveys Physicians on Telehealth Impact During COVID-19

Nationwide survey finds overall satisfaction but obstacles remain
Doctor in white lab coat running telehealth session on laptop.

McLean, VA, and Bedford, MA, November 17, 2020—Today, the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition—comprising more than 1,000 healthcare organizations, technology firms, and nonprofits—published the Telehealth Impact Physician Survey. More than 75% of respondents said telehealth enabled them to provide quality care for COVID-19-related care, acute care, chronic disease management, hospital/emergency department follow-up, care coordination, preventative care, and mental/behavioral health. 

The 48-question survey captured the opinions of 1,594 physicians and other qualified healthcare professionals between July 13 and August 15, 2020. Among those surveyed, 87% were medical doctors and 13% were non-physician providers including nurse practitioners, psychologists, physician assistants, and social workers.

The survey is part of the Telehealth Impact Study prepared by the coalition’s Telehealth Work Group, comprised of the American Medical Association, American Telemedicine Association, Change Healthcare, Digital Medicine Society, Massachusetts Health Quality Partners, MassChallenge HealthTech, Mayo Clinic, and MITRE.

Topline findings show strong support for telehealth:

  • 60% reported that telehealth has improved the health of their patients.
  • 68% report they’re motivated to increase telehealth use in their practices.
  • 11% said they were using remote patient monitoring technologies with patients in their homes. Commonly used tools included smartphones, blood pressure cuffs, body weight scales, and pulse oximeters.
  • 55% indicated that telehealth has improved the satisfaction of their work.
  • More than 80% of respondents indicated that telehealth improved the timeliness of care for their patients. A similar percentage said that their patients have reacted favorably to using telehealth for care.

“The strong support shown for telehealth, as evidenced in these results, reinforces the knowledge that telehealth is critical to how we deliver healthcare today,” said Dr. Steve Ommen, medical director, Mayo Clinic Center for Connected Care, and one of the study’s co-investigators. “The use of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic highlights its importance in care delivery. Its continued use will be instrumental in connecting to patients everywhere.”

Barriers and Challenges

The survey also found barriers and challenges still exist and/or are anticipated beyond the pandemic. For example:

  • 73.3% indicated that no or low reimbursement will be a major challenge post-COVID. (Note: The government adapted many regulations to enable telehealth during the pandemic.)
  • More than 64% said technology challenges for patients were a barrier to the sustainable use of telehealth. These perceived challenges included lack of access to technology and/or internet/broadband, as well as low digital literacy.
  • 58% are not able to currently access their telehealth technology directly from their electronic health records.

Dr. John Halamka, president of the Mayo Clinic Platform and co-chair of the coalition, said, "In addition to technology and policy change during covid-19, we've had culture change.  Patients will expect more virtual care even after we return to the new normal post vaccination."

Dr. Jay Schnitzer, MITRE’s chief medical and technology officer and co-chair of the coalition, added, “COVID-19 has severely tested our nation’s healthcare delivery. As we navigate this pandemic, we need to evaluate the efficacy of all tools available to serve patients safely. This survey provides valuable insight into physicians’ adoption of telehealth, and we look forward to adding the patients’ perspective in the near future.”

Views from Members of the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition Telehealth Work Group

  • Dr. Susan R. Bailey, president, American Medical Association (AMA)

“Telehealth and remote care services have proven critical to the management of COVID-19, while also ensuring uninterrupted care for 100 million Americans with chronic conditions. How telehealth will be used after the pandemic is in the balance, and no one wants to see new access to telehealth suddenly halted. The time is now for government officials, physicians, patients, and other stakeholders to work together on a solid plan to support telehealth services going forward. Future telehealth policies should be data driven, and the Telehealth Impact Study provides important insights to guide necessary decisions.”

  • Ann Mond Johnson, chief executive officer, American Telemedicine Association (ATA)

“As evidenced by the results of the Telehealth Impact Physician Survey, COVID-19 has allowed telehealth to prove its value as a safe, effective, and necessary care delivery option that can provide quality care to patients when and where they need it. Telehealth is also helping to address several challenges that have been exacerbated by and will continue long after the pandemic, including a severe provider shortage and a growing gap in access to care for rural communities and our most vulnerable populations. Telehealth did not create these problems but offers a cost-effective solution to a failing healthcare system. By extending access to care, improving efficiencies, and reducing healthcare spending, telehealth creates a hybrid care delivery system of in-person and virtual care, bringing healthcare into the 21st century.”

  • Tim Suther, senior vice president and general manager, data solutions, Change Healthcare

“Helping the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition produce important findings is crucial to everyone’s overall health and well-being during the pandemic. These findings provide critical insights to healthcare policy and strategy decision makers, and will help to enable superior healthcare experiences for both patients and their care providers.”

  • Jennifer Goldsack, executive director, Digital Medicine Society (DiMe)

“The COVID-19 pandemic has driven the rapid adoption of telehealth. The Telehealth Impact Study provides some of the first evidence that the increase in remote patient monitoring has been much more limited. This critical finding demands further exploration to ensure that the full promise of high-quality telehealth is realized and sustainable over time.”

  • Barbra G. Rabson, president and chief executive officer, Massachusetts Health Quality Partners (MHQP)

“In MHQP’s work surveying clinicians about their telehealth experiences we have found a high degree of variation with clinician satisfaction and adaption of telehealth. Clearly telehealth can fill an important and longstanding need in our health system, but we still have a long way to go to make telehealth a viable option for all patients."

  • Nick Dougherty, managing director, MassChallenge HealthTech (MCHT)

"It’s clear that telehealth is here to stay. As we’ve seen firsthand throughout the pandemic, digital solutions in healthcare can have a transformative impact on patients’ lives. But these solutions must have the right incentive structures to truly realize their full potential. In the Telehealth Impact Study, we found digital access to care is not only possible across a variety of indications, but also to a high degree of satisfaction."

  • Dr. Francis X. Campion, co-investigator, MITRE

“During COVID-19 the move to telehealth has been broad and deep, serving patients with a wide variety of health needs in every state. We are learning rapidly and now have the responsibility to integrate digital methods into the workflow to improve the value of care.”

About the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition

The COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition is a private-sector-led response to the COVID-19 pandemic that brings together healthcare organizations, technology firms, nonprofits, academia, and startups. It coordinates members’ collective expertise, capabilities, data, and insights to preserve the healthcare delivery system and help protect U.S. populations. Learn more at https://C19HCC.org.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The coalition is seeking individuals 18 or older, living in the U.S., who have had a telehealth visit during the COVID-19 period since March 11, 2020, to take a survey of their impressions of telehealth. More information is available at https://c19hcc.org/telehealth/patient-survey-analysis/.

Media contact: 

Mike Murphy, media@mitre.org