By Eric Wicklund, mHealth Intelligence | July 18, 2019
The online professional medical network has released what’s billed as the first-ever survey of specialties showing an interest in telemedicine – and those with less enthusiasm for connected health.
Radiologists and psychologists are jumping on the telehealth wagon, according to what’s being billed as the first-ever analysis of physician interest in telemedicine. Those working in surgery, meanwhile, aren’t that interested.
The listing of specialties engaged in connected health, measured by job postings, is one facet of the study released this week by the online professional medical network Doximity. In its analysis of provider interest, the network also found that interest in telehealth has doubled over the past three years and is growing annually by 20 percent – particularly in urban areas.
“Our research shows that doctors are embracing telemedicine as an alternative to traditional clinical practices, which is good news for patients,” Amit Phull, MD, Doximity’s Vice President of Strategy and Insights, said in a press release. “By removing physical limitations, physicians can now expand their patient-base to rural areas that are currently underserved by different specialties. If you start to view the physician shortage as a problem of where the doctors are located, which is mainly in the major metros, it’s easy to see how more telemedicine can help address this serious challenge.”
But who is most – and least – interested in using telemedicine in their practice?
According to the survey, the top 15 specialties showing interest in virtual care are:
- Internal Medicine
- Family Medicine
- Emergency Medicine
- Allergy & Immunology
- Infectious Disease
- Pediatric Pulmonology
- Occupational Medicine.
The list is heavily populated by healthcare providers whose services can be delivered to the patient in the home, through care pathways that can be enhanced by mHealth platforms, even digital health devices.
On the flip side, the top 15 specialties showing the least interest in telehealth are:
- General Surgery
- Orthopedic Surgery
- Obstetrics & Gynecology
- Physical Medicine/Rehab
- Otolaryngology (ENT)
- Plastic Surgery
- Pediatric Cardiology
Many of these specialties are focused on in-patient care in the health system setting, often requiring in-person treatment or services that can’t be easily duplicated in virtual care.
Ironically, the survey lists physical medicine and rehabilitation as among the top five specialties least interested in telehealth, yet those in the field who are using telemedicine have shown success and seen some reimbursement from Medicare. In addition, the physical therapy field is one of just four that have launched a licensing compact aimed at helping providers practice across state lines.
Among other findings, the survey finds that clinicians of all ages are showing interest in telehealth, not just those young enough to have had access to it in med school. In all, roughly 28 percent of those between the ages of 30 and 40 are seeking telemedicine jobs, compared to 26.5 percent of those between 40 and 50, 23.5 percent of those between the ages of 50 and 60 and 17.6 percent of those between 60 and 70.
The interest in virtual care by older clinicians may be due to the development of telemedicine platforms – including eConsult services – that enable doctors to work from home. Some telehealth providers are even marketing their services as ideal for older or retired physicians who want to use their talents, but in the time and place of their choosing.
To that point, the survey also found an increased interest in locum tenens work, which fits snugly into many telehealth business plans.
Officials said a study like this can help health systems map out their enterprise telehealth strategy, identifying where the labor force for connected health is strongest and where it needs support.