Over the course of the last five years we have seen impressive year over year growth of telemedicine. Its steep rate of incline, anywhere from 20-30% per year, far surpasses that of any other area of medicine. The time and cost effectiveness of telemedicine has been demonstrated repeatedly, and reported in multiple blogs we have posted. For the first time, however, we are seeing rapid adoption of telemedicine by physicians as well! Doximity reports that in 2018, the number of doctors that reported involvement in telemdicine DOUBLED as compared with the year prior.
The largest growth specialty was primary care, likely where physicians can easily participate in general telemedicine through one of the myriad of large companies on the market. Significantly, however, growth is occurring across almost all specialties. This trend is likely closely bound with the other phenomenon reported, namely the increase in billing for telemedicine services which has also increased 40% (!) over the last year. Simply put: the ability to bill for telemedicine services will drive rapid adoption and utilization. Moreover, it will allow the expansion of telemedicine into areas – such as the medical subspecialties – where it has not previously entered.
What is driving the rapid adoption of telemedicine? After all aren’t physicians overworked and compensated well for their services?
- I believe that there are many physicians who love clinical medicine and are drawn to it as a true calling, but for personal reasons are unable to commit to a full time employment. Whether it is parents staying at home with children, transitioning between jobs or communities, or simply feeling burnt out and wanting to cut back, there is a notable workforce of physicians who prefer to work part time or on a contracted basis.
- Physicians traditionally feel like their employment opportunities are truncated. Once in a practice, the physician will see patients brought to him or her in clinic, perform the procedures relevant to the specialty, and receive compensation. Bringing in additional patients is burdensome and typically requires rounding in new hospitals or marketing/advertising which doctors are generally naturally reluctant to do. There is seldom opportunity to explore work or compensation options outside the rigid structure inherent in medical practice. Telemedicine provides an easy and convenient way for doctors to almost effortlessly bring in more clients, patients and revenue without moving from their office!
We recently had an opening for a specialty spot and received a shockingly large number of interested applicants – it seems like specialists also desire to increase their income easily!
All areas of medicine, from the patient side to the payer side and now the physician side, are showing a willingness to embrace telemedicine. It is, after all, the future of clinical care!