Consumers and physicians agree that virtual health care holds great promise for transforming care delivery. Yet physicians remain reluctant to embrace the technologies, worried about reimbursement, privacy and other issues. Results from Deloitte Center for Health Solutions surveys of both U.S. health care consumers and physicians, made public today, show how health systems can encourage physicians to overcome resistance and close the gap on virtual care, among other findings.
Virtual care uses telemedicine and other communication technologies to complement and even substitute traditional care delivery. The Deloitte 2018 Surveys of U.S. Health Care Consumers and Physicians set out to understand each group’s perspectives and experiences with current and future uses for virtual care technologies, as well as the benefits and challenges.
The surveys found that a majority of consumers (64 percent) and physicians (66 percent) cite improved patient access as the top benefit of virtual care. About half of physicians surveyed agree that virtual care supports the goals of patient-centricity, including improved patient satisfaction (52 percent agree) and staying connected with patients and their caregivers (45 percent agree).
However, physicians’ enthusiasm wanes when it comes to using virtual care in their practices today. While 57 percent of consumers favor video-based visits, only 14 percent of physicians surveyed have the capability today, and just 18 percent of the remainder plan to add this capability.
Lack of reimbursement, along with complex licensing requirements and high cost technologies are among the key causes of physician reluctance, the research found. Yet changing reimbursement models may be a catalyst for virtual care adoption.
“Changes in health care reimbursement models, combined with growing consumer demand, are driving health systems to embrace virtual care, but they are struggling to get physicians on board,” said Dr. Ken Abrams, managing director, Deloitte Consulting LLP. “However, getting buy-in from physicians may not be as difficult as organizations might expect: most physicians who have tried the technologies associated with virtual care feel good about them. It’s important to help physicians understand how virtual care improves care quality and lessens patient or caregiver burden.”
The U.S. Physician Survey also found that clinicians worry about medical errors (36 percent) and data security and privacy (33 percent) associated with virtual care.
Virtual care usage today
The survey asked physicians about seven key virtual technologies, including email/patient portal consultations, virtual/video visits, remote patient monitoring at home, remote monitoring at health care facilities, remote care management and coaching, integration of data from wearables into patient medical records, and physician-to-physician electronic consultations.
Email/patient portal consultations are the most prevalent virtual care technology used by responding physicians (38 percent), followed by physician-to-physician consultations (17 percent) and virtual/video visits (14 percent).
The need for virtual care strategies
Based on the research, it’s reasonable to conclude that many of the barriers to virtual care adoption have already been addressed, and that remaining resistance could soon erode. Virtual care could emerge as a competitive advantage, helping to grow the patient base, as physicians who deliver good patient-centered care will likely be in high demand. Insurers and employers may also favor health systems with virtual care capabilities.
It will also enable health systems to engage with patients virtually throughout their health journey. This encompasses virtual care interactions (e.g., video visits and remote monitoring), wellness, preventative services and care coordination between patients, physicians and caregivers.
“Virtual care capabilities can help physicians meet ever-increasing demands on their time and skill: caring for more patients, dealing with rising clinical complexity, and helping patients play a greater role in their own care,” added Steve Burrill, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP. “Organizations are unlikely to achieve this without developing virtual care capabilities. If they fail to act now, they risk losing significant market share as customers seek other solutions to meet their needs.”
To learn more about these and other findings from the research, click here to download the Deloitte 2018 Survey of U.S. Physicians. Full results from the 2018 Survey of U.S. Health Care Consumers will be available in August, but initial findings about consumers and virtual care can be found here.