Doctors look to tech for the future but need assurance it will work

LAS VEGAS Doctors are interested in adopting more digital health technologies in the future, Jesse Ehrenfeld, former chair of the board of trustees for the American Medical Association (AMA), said at HIMSS21 here yesterday. 

In fact, the AMA compared survey data on digital health adoption collected in 2019 to results from 2016, and found a “small but significant increase in the advantages that physicians feel digital health” can bring to their patients. 

“I can only imagine what these data would look like today,” Ehrenfeld said, noting that the data was collected pre-COVID-19. 

The survey zeroed in on seven types of tools, including remote monitoring for efficiency, remote monitoring and management for improved care, clinical decision support, patient engagement, tele-visits, point of care and consumer access to data. 

“The use of digital tools again in 2016 and 2019 has risen significantly across all seven of those [categories] … and the average number of tools has increased,” Ehrenfeld said. “And interestingly, older physicians and those less enthusiastic [about] using technologies there’s a lot of overlap, but it’s not completely … are catching up and there are some folks that were lagging in terms of their adoption [who] are starting to catch up.”

Doctors are especially interested in monitoring their patients outside the four halls of a hospital or clinic. 

“While all digital tools have seen an increase in that three-year period from ’16 to ’19, remote care tools have seen the biggest jumps so far,” Ehrenfeld said. “Remote care tools are also at the highest likelihood of those wanting to adopt if they haven’t already in the next three years.” 

The survey results show that the number of physicians interested in adopting augmented intelligence tools is very high; however, current adoption, at least as of 2019, is low. 

Some of the biggest requirements that doctors listed in the survey were EHR integration, getting coverage for a stand-alone practice, the liability of these products and safety and efficacy of these tools, and that the tools are as good as traditional care. 

What’s next? 

While digital adoption has come a long way, Ehrenfeld said for tech to take off generally there are four questions that doctors really want to know before adopting these tools: 

“Does it work? Will I get paid? Will I get sued? Will it work in my practice?”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a massive uptick in digital tools and virtual care visits. And Ehrenfeld said the interest in this space isn’t going away. 

“Millions of Americans have lost their employer-provided healthcare coverage, and they get a $40 virtual doctor visit at a care clinic and that’s pretty appealing to patients all over the U.S,” he said. 

Patients and doctors are interested in continuing to use virtual health and other tools that may have first been implemented during the pandemic. In fact, 68% of clinicians said they are motivated to increase telehealth, and 75% said telehealth helped them boost their care, according to the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition. 

Beyond telehealth, Ehrenfeld noted that there is a lot of possibility for tools such as augmented reality; however, exactly what this tech will look like in the future is still being ironed out.  


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