The number of US physicians who list telemedicine as a skill doubled from 2015 to 2018, according to a recent study done by Doximity, a network of healthcare professionals. The study also reports significant growth in telemedicine patient visits, which increased annually by 261 percent between 2015 and 2017.
Interestingly, this growth is not attributed solely to Millennials and young professionals, but is spread evenly among age groups
The Doximity study ranked the top 10 U.S. metro areas that had the highest number of physicians expressing interest in telemedicine.
1. San Diego
4. New York City
5. Salt Lake City
6. San Francisco
8. Los Angeles
The study concludes: “It’s encouraging to note that physicians across specialties, age groups and geographic regions are drawn to telemedicine. Physicians’ increasing interest in telemedicine, and temporary positions, will help more patients get access to care. Whether it be a late-night call about an infant’s health from a new mother, a video chat with a mental healthcare provider, or a patient who lives 100 miles from the closest hospital having a follow-up visit with a provider, doctors and patients alike are using and benefiting from the rise of telemedicine across the country.”
2019 Telemedicine and Locum Tenens Opportunities Study
NPR produced an interesting segment on the state of telehealth services and how they’ve helped people in rural communities. The article spotlights one woman in rural CA who needed therapy but lives in a town with only two therapists and could only get one appointment per month. Instead she visited a local clinic twice a week to connect via video call with a therapist 200 miles away. She was skeptical at first, but quickly adapted and became comfortable and grateful that this service was available to her.
The article illustrates the rapid growth of telehealth as a way to serve rural communities, however their survey shows that 1 in 5 rural households don’t have the broadband internet access available to reliably connect for telehealth calls from their home.
Survey results also indicate convenience is the leading factor for choosing telehealth services. In many cases, it was the only option. However even when respondents had in-person services available, many chose telehealth because of the convenience.
Click here to read the article or listen to the NPR segment.
There is a nationwide shortage of mental health services, but this shortage is even more pronounced in rural states like North Dakota. In response to the shortage, the state has boosted telemedicine as an option for mental health care.
The ND human services agency has started allowing providers who serve patients through its health centers to live in some of the state’s bigger cities — or even move out of state — and deliver mental health care to rural areas through video calls.
Expanding telemedicine has given North Dakota a way to reach more patients — and convince more psychiatrists to practice in the state. It’s helped them reach more patients in rural areas and those who can’t travel far for mental health care, including the elderly.
“We’ve definitely seen a significant impact on that recruitment and retention,” said Dr. Laura Kroetsch, of the North Dakota human services department. There are 22 psychiatrists who provide telemedicine care through the department’s eight clinics. Another three psychiatrists live out of state and provide telemedicine to those health centers. In December 2018, the department’s psychiatrists provided nearly 500 telemedicine appointments — more than 150 of which were with psychiatrists who live out of state
The state is also trying to prepare the next generation of psychiatrists to provide telemedicine to underserved areas. Once a week, psychiatry residents training at the University of North Dakota treat rural residents across the state by video chat.
Read the article “North Dakota doesn’t have enough psychiatrists. Telemedicine is helping to fix that” on Stat.com to learn more about North Dakota’s plan to expand telemedicine for mental health services.
Washington state lawmakers have passed two new bills which help expand telehealth services state wide. The first, HB5386, will establish a telemedicine training program covering issues such as licensing, liability, informed consent, and training on how to use technology. Telehealth providers would be required to complete this certification every four years. If signed into law, WA would be the first state to implement and mandate a telemedicine training program.
The second bill, HB5387, would enable healthcare providers using telemedicine to extend the physician’s privileges to the health system in which the patient is located, provided both locations agree to the service.
Both bills were submitted by State Sen. Randi Becker, who said ““This is a first in the nation, this training program that we’re putting in place along with the ease of credentialing for providers providing services through telemedicine. These are phenomenal improvements to our health care system.”
The bills have been sent to Gov. Jay Inslee for signature. Read more at mHealthIntelligence.