AMA Study: Physicians Increasingly Adopting Digital Health Tools

Sept. 13, 2022
Over the past three years, practicing physicians have moved to adopt more digital health tools in their practice, according to the results of a study just released by the American Medical Association

A study whose results were released on Sep. 13 indicates that physicians in practice are increasingly seeing the advantages of leveraging digital health solutions in their clinical practices. The Chicago- and Washington, D.C.-based American Medical Association (AMA) on Tuesday released the results of that study, entitled the “AMA Digital Health Care 2022 Study.” And, not surprisingly, the highest level of digital tool adoption so far has been in the area of remote care delivery.

As the press release accompanying the publication of the study began thus:Physicians are increasingly seeing the advantages of digital health solutions since 2016 when the American Medical Association (AMA) first investigated the motivations, requirements, and uses of digital health technology among physicians. New AMA digital health research released today shows increased rates of digital health adoption among physicians, provides deep insight into the essential qualities that physicians expect from digital health technologies, and illustrates changes during the last six years.”

“The physician adoption rate of digital health tools has accelerated as physicians grow increasingly optimistic about the advantages that properly designed digital health tools can have for patient care if key requirements are met,” AMA President Jack Resneck Jr., M.D., said in a statement contained in the press release. “The AMA survey illustrates the importance physicians place on validated digital health tools that improve health while streamlining the technological and administrative burdens faced each day in medicine.  These technologies also must be designed and deployed in ways that advance health equity.”

The press release went on to note that “AMA Digital Health Research surveyed 1,300 physicians in three regular intervals between 2016 and 2022 to investigate physician motivations and requirements for integrating digital health tools into their practices. According to the AMA survey, the following adoption trends among physicians are propelling the digital transformation of health care:

•             An increasing percentage of physicians feel there are advantages in leveraging digital health solutions. The percentage of physicians who feel digital health tools are an advantage for patient care grew from 85 percent in 2016 to 93 percent in 2022, and increases were measured across all ages and specialties.

•             Adoption of digital tools has grown significantly among all physicians regardless of gender, specialty, or age. The average number of digital health tools in use by a physician grew from 2.2 in 2016 to 3.8 in 2022. Improved clinical outcomes and work efficiency are the top factors influencing physician interest in digital health tools. The ability to help reduce stress and burnout has also gained importance as a key driver of digital tool adoption. Liability coverage remains the most important requirement for physician adoption of digital health tools followed by integration with their EHR and assurances for data privacy.

•             The largest growth in adoption was among digital health tools that aid in remote care. The percentage of physicians using tele-visits/virtual visits grew from 14 percent in 2016 to 80 percent in 2022 while the percentage of physicians using remote monitoring devices grew from 12 percent in 2016 to 30 percent in 2022.

•             The digital health tools that garner the most enthusiasm among physicians are tele-visits (57 percent) followed by remote monitoring devices (53 percent).

•             Intentions are high for the future adoption of emerging technologies, but current usage is low. Two in 5 physicians plan to adopt augmented intelligence in the next year, while nearly 1 in 5 physicians are currently using augmented intelligence in their practices. While current usage of digital therapeutics is low, they have the highest percentage of planned incorporation in the future.”

The press release also contained this statement: “The AMA is dedicated to shaping a future that ensures digital health solutions are an asset and not an additional burden for physicians and patients.  Also, emerging digital tools must be designed with an equity lens so that they address and do not exacerbate health inequities. Through its ongoing work, the AMA is committed to ensuring physicians have a greater role in leading the design and implementation of health care technologies to ensure they are evidence-based, validated and actionable to enhance patient care, shape a better health care system, and improve the health of the nation.”

Looking in more detail at the study’s results, the following were the levels found of adoption by physicians in practice, of the various tools:

Ø 83 percent: televisits/virtual visits (up from 29 percent in 2019)

Ø  68 percent: consumer access to clinical data (up from 58 percent in 2019)

Ø  58 percent: point of care/workflow enhancement (up from 47 percent in 2019)

Ø  43 percent: patient engagement (up from 33 percent in 2019)

Ø  47 percent: clinical decision support (up from 37 percent in 2019)

Ø  34 percent: remote monitoring and management for improved care (up from 22 percent in 2019)

Ø  30 percent: remote monitoring for efficiency (up from 16 percent in 2019)

Interestingly, the number of tools being used in clinical practice has increased considerably among smaller practices, with physicians practicing in small-practice settings nearly catching up in tool use with those in larger practices. For example, in 2019, the average physician in solo practice used only 2.2 digital tools, but by 2022, that average had reached 3.6. The same was true of physicians in single-specialty practices. Meanwhile, that average number was 2.6 in 2019 and 3.9 in 2022, among physicians in hospital practice; in physicians in multi-specialty settings, that average number had been 2.6 in 2019 and had reached 4.0 by 2022. In other words, physicians in small-practice settings had nearly caught up with their peers practicing in multi-specialty groups and hospitals, between 2019 and 2022, in terms of the average number of digital tools they were using.

Meanwhile, motivations remained somewhat constant, with “improves clinical outcomes,” “improves work efficiency,” “patient privacy is protected,” “improves diagnostic ability,” and “improves care coordination,” remaining the top motivations for adopting digital tools, between 2019 and 2022.

The full study can be accessed here.

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