This week I consider the evolving influence of physicians. Physicians have not been active in social media for several reasons: lack of clarity on appropriate use of social media, slow adoption of information technology, and payment schedules that don’t reimburse for patient conversations. These factors are becoming less of a deterrent to the use of social media by physicians.
The American Telehealth Association (ATA) defines telehealth as “remote healthcare that does not always involve clinical service. Videoconferencing, transmission of still images, e-health including patient portals, remote monitoring of vital signs, continuing medical education and nursing call centers are all considered part of telemedicine and telehealth.” According to a survey of 2000 US physicians, 7% use online video conferencing to communicate with patients.
A survey conducted by the Center for Telehealth & eHealth Law found that 39 states have some reimbursement for telehealth services, though the extent of coverage depends on many factors. Similarly, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) also provides limited coverage for telehealth services. Recently, however, the ATA sent a letter to CMS Administrator Dr. Donald M. Berwick, asking the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, of which CMS is a part, to waive restrictions for telehealth services under Medicare Parts A and B.
Additionally, the increasing popularity of secure “communities” where physicians can exchange clinical information will hasten adoption of information technology. Since its launch in 2006, 20% of all US physicians have become members of Sermo, an online community where practicing physicians discuss clinical issues and practice management. Doximity is another private network for physicians and other medical professionals.
- 80% of internet users (or 59% of adults) have looked online for health information
- 34% of internet users (or 25% of adults) have read someone else’s comments about health or medical issues in an online news group, website, or blog.