Physician adoption of digital tools increased since 2016

February 10, 2020

Follow-up survey shows virtual visits and remote care monitoring gained the most popularity and implementation.

Adoption of digital tools among physicians has grown significantly since 2016, according to new results from a 2019 follow-up survey conducted by The American Medical Association (AMA). 

The AMA says the survey was a follow-up to a 2016 survey whose results were used to “determine the degree to which adoption has occurred in the past three years and identify attitudinal shifts among physicians toward their use and adoption.” 

The 2019 survey examined seven categories of digital health tools include telehealth/virtual vests; remote monitoring for efficiency, clinical decision support, and point of care/workflow support. 

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Aside from exactly replicating the 2016 survey in terms of questions, the AMA distributed the survey to the same physician list as provided by WebMD. A total of 1359 physicians representing a healthy mix of primary care physicians, specialists, solo and group practitioners responded to the survey. 

“The rise of the digital-native physician will have a profound impact on health care and patient outcomes, and will place digital health technologies under pressure to perform according to higher expectations,” said AMA Board Chair Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, MD, MPH. “The AMA survey provides deep insight into the emerging requirements that physicians expect from digital technologies and sets an industry guidepost for understanding what a growing number of physicians require to adopt new technology.”

Overall, the results of the survey indicate that all digital tools saw an increase in adoption since 2016; technology for virtual visits and remote monitoring for patient care saw the greatest increases.  

According to the results, 28 percent of respondents reported using virtual visits in 2019 (up from 14 percent in 2016), and 22 percent reported using remote monitoring programs (compared to 13 percent in 2016). 

Some of the technologies that fell into this category included mobile applications and devices used by chronic disease patients for daily measurement of vital signs, readings that are visible to patients and transmitted to the physician’s office, and alerts generated as appropriate for missing or out-of-range readings. 

Of those respondents not using either technology at the time of the survey, 50 percent said that they were looking to adopt virtual visit technology and 53 percent said they were looking to adopt remote care management technology in 2020. 

Physicians said that their key motivating drivers to adopt new technologies are the efficieny of use (51 percent), the technology’s ability to increase patient adherence (39 percent), burnout reduction (40 percent), and overall convenience (36 percent). 

Similarly, awareness of technologies like artificial or augmented intelligence (AI) is fairly high. 

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Seventy-two to seventy-eight percent of respondents said that they were familiar with AI concepts and their potential applicability to research and development, population health, clinical applications, and health administration. Furthermore, 76 percent reported being familiar with AI and personalized medicine technology. 

Though awareness of AI is high, its adoption remains low, according to the AMA’s survey results. Less than 10 percent of respondents said that they were currently using any form of AI. Only one-third of respondents said that they were planning to adopt the technology within the next year, and about 75 percent said that they would plan to adopt AI technology within the next two or three years. 

Motivations for those physicians interested in adopting AI technology in their practice were primarily concerning improving service to chronic care patients and the elderly (particularly for ages 85 and up), followed by attracting more millennial patients to their practice. 

Though intentions and actual adoption of these technologies grew, so too did concerns. Physicians reported concerns regarding whether or not these new tools would be covered by standard malpractice insurance and the new data privacy risks they may introduce.