A study published in JAMA Network Open has found that clinician attitudes towards telehealth quality and ease of use were associated with telehealth utilization rates. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the utilization of phone and video telehealth increased dramatically in order to safeguard patients and medical professionals against exposure to the disease. Prior to the pandemic, telehealth was most frequently utilized for mental health treatment, but during COVID-19, adoption soared in primary care, specialty care, and mental health. This rapid transformation has given researchers an unprecedented opportunity to compare how telehealth is used across various specialities.
In order to identify whether telehealth utilization rates correlated with clinician’s attitudes towards telehealth, researchers at the Department of Veteran Affairs New England Healthcare System (VANEHS) performed a 32-item study with 866 respondents who were employed in clinics that specialized in either mental health (MH), primary care (PC) or specialty care (SC) between August and September 2021. The survey received a response rate of 64 percent. Researchers separated participating clinicians into three categories: 403 MH providers, 153 PC providers, and 258 SC providers. According to the survey, MH participants were more inclined than their PC and SC colleagues to assess video care as being of the highest quality, and they favored this modality to the phone. Researchers also discovered that 46 PC and 59 SC clinicians showed no preference between the two modes, saying that utilizing the phone for virtual consultations was just as successful as using video. The study also revealed that 67 SC participants and 36 PC participants preferred phoning for remote treatment. The survey’s findings are consistent with VANEHS consumption statistics, which demonstrates that MH clinicians use video more often than PC and SC practitioners.
The researchers concluded that the survey’s results indicate that clinician attitudes regarding telehealth quality and ease of use were associated with utilization rates. However, they note that there is a need for additional data regarding the relative efficacy of video and phone telehealth in addition to enhanced procedures to more effectively incorporate video telehealth into clinician workflows. The researchers conclude, “Such advances will be critical in influencing clinician attitudes and ensuring the provision of high-quality care at the right place and the right time”.