A new report by the Commonwealth Fund shows how primary care physicians’ (PCPs) perceptions of telehealth differ across 10 high-income countries, including the US. The survey found that more US PCPs believed telehealth enabled effective assessment of mental and behavioral health needs than their counterparts abroad. The report also revealed that implementing a telehealth platform was easy for most PCPs across the countries studied. However, telehealth use declined by over 30 percent across various primary care specialties in 2021 and 2022, despite overall satisfaction among PCPs.
Telehealth has become a vital tool in providing healthcare services in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The use of telehealth technology has enabled healthcare providers to continue providing care to patients while adhering to social distancing guidelines. The primary care physician (PCP) plays a critical role in the delivery of healthcare services, and their perceptions of telehealth are essential in shaping the future of telehealth use. The Commonwealth Fund conducted a survey to explore the perceptions of PCPs in 10 high-income countries, including the US, on the use and efficacy of telehealth.
Telehealth Use by PCPs The survey revealed that more than half of PCPs in Switzerland, Germany, the US, France, and Australia used telehealth to conduct between 1 percent and 25 percent of patient visits. However, the United Kingdom had a higher percentage of PCPs (67 percent) who conducted between 25 percent and 75 percent of patient visits through telehealth. The US had the highest percentage of physicians (65 percent) who conducted 1 percent to 25 percent of patient visits via telehealth.
Effectiveness of Telehealth in Assessing Mental and Behavioral Health Needs The survey also showed that PCPs in the US, Canada, Australia, the UK, the Netherlands, and New Zealand reported that telehealth allowed them to assess the mental and behavioral health needs of their patients to a great extent or to some extent. However, only 43 percent of PCPs in Switzerland and Sweden, 30 percent in France, and 28 percent in Germany reported the same. Additionally, Germany had the lowest percentage of PCPs (19 percent) who used telehealth and believed it improved timeliness of care to a great extent or to some extent.
Ease of Telehealth Implementation The report found that implementing a telehealth platform was easy for most PCPs in the countries studied. A majority of PCPs in eight of the 10 countries surveyed reported that implementing a telehealth platform was somewhat or very easy. In the US, 72 percent of PCPs stated that telehealth implementation was easy, while in Germany, only 30 percent of PCPs reported finding telehealth implementation easy.
Impact of telehealth on finances, In terms of the impact of telehealth on finances, PCPs in Australia and the US reported that telehealth allowed their practices to offset potential financial losses resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, only 17 percent and 38 percent of PCPs in Germany and Switzerland, respectively, said telehealth offset potential pandemic-related financial losses.
Satisfaction with Telehealth The survey revealed that PCPs in eight of the 10 countries studied were satisfied with practicing telehealth. More than 50 percent of PCPs in these countries reported that they were very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with practicing telehealth. In the US, 77 percent of PCPs expressed satisfaction with telehealth.
Decline in telehealth use Although research has shown that Americans are satisfied with their virtual primary care experiences, telehealth use dropped by over 30 percent across various primary care specialties in 2021 and 2022.
Data released by FAIR Health last week showed that the percentage of patients seen via telehealth dropped by 36 percent among physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and internal medicine physicians between 2020 and 2021. It also declined by 35 percent among pediatricians and 32 percent among family medicine physicians during that period.