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Physicians Sour on States’ Telehealth Implementation Efforts

A survey by SERMO finds that physicians across the U.S. are giving their home states low marks for telehealth implementation, with only 15 percent saying their state has done a good job.

Source: ThinkStock

- Some 44 percent of U.S. doctors say their state hasn’t done a good job implementing telehealth, while only 15 percent feel their state has done well or very well.

The results come by way of the online physician community SERMO, which recently polled more than 1,650 U.S. physicians on their state’s efforts at supporting telemedicine and mobile health programs. A similar poll among 1,831 international physicians found 19 percent rating their country favorably in its telehealth implementation, while 43 percent had negative reviews.

Doctors in most states opted for a middle-of-the-road evaluation of their state’s efforts, casting a vote for “fair.” Still, in almost every state, negative opinions outnumbered positive ones.

The news isn’t all that surprising considering recent surveys citing disappointment with state and federal efforts to oversee the industry. In 2014, a survey of almost 1,560 family physicians, conducted by the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care and funded by Anthem, found only 15 percent actually using telehealth. While a majority said they see the benefits in telehealth, they cited infrastructure issues, lack of reimbursement, lack of training, cost of equipment and potential liability issues as barriers.

In addition, organizations like the American Telemedicine Association – which issues annual report cards on each state’s telehealth services – and the American Academy of Family Physicians have criticized federal programs that make telemedicine adoption complicated or fail to reimburse physicians for using it.

Among the states receiving the best reviews in the SERMO survey was Ohio, where 11 of 50 physicians, or 22 percent, rated the state’s telehealth implementation as “well” or “very well.” In contrast, 22 votes, or 44 percent, were cast for “poor” or “very poor,” and 17 votes were cast for “fair.”

In California, 32 of 163 doctors rated telehealth favorably, but once again the negative reviews won out with 66 votes. That number was almost matched by the physicians voting “fair,” which came to 65.

At the other end of the spectrum was New Jersey, where 46 of 78 votes cast were negative and only four doctors indicated their state has done well; 28 votes, meanwhile, were cast for “fair.” And in New York, whose 167 votes were the most cast in any state, 85 rated the telehealth services “poor” or “very poor,” while 19 rated the state’s efforts positively and 63 opted for a fair assessment.

The votes are by no means representative in some states. North Dakota only scored one vote, while Alaska, Vermont and Puerto Rico only recorded two votes and Maine and Wyoming only had three. Several more reported less than 10 votes.

Internationally, of the 26 countries represented in the survey, Spain received the most positive votes among its doctors, with 98 or 373 votes cast for “very well” or “well;” 173 votes were cast for “fair,” and 102 votes were negative.

Great Britain took a big hit in the survey: 74 doctors voted negatively, while only 18 were positive and 43 stayed in the middle. Also hit hard was Venezuela, where 45 of the 69 votes cast were negative and only four were positive.

The most votes were cast in Italy, where 233 doctors rated their country’s telehealth implementation in a negative light, 36 saw it from a positive angle and 112 rated it as “fair.”

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