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Study Shows 51% of Physicians Using Telehealth to Compete

Teresa Iafolla

Written by Teresa Iafolla

Telemedicine is quickly becoming more than just a convenient way to drive more revenue to your practice or adjust your work-life balance. Physicians are now offering virtual visits as a way to remain competitive in the primary care market, according to a recent report from Price-Waterhouse Cooper (PwC).

The report, titled “Primary care in the New Health Economy: Time for a makeover,” demonstrates how the primary care industry as a whole is evolving. As physicians adapt to new payment models, new healthcare competitors, and an aging population with chronic conditions, telehealth services are playing a larger role in care delivery.

Many family physicians are finding virtual visits can be a good strategy to compete as retail health clinics, concierge medicine services, and other non-traditional ways to access healthcare threaten their practices’ independence and stability.

By the Numbers

The numbers don’t lie: Physicians recognize the unique challenges facing today’s healthcare system, and many believe virtual visits are a viable solution.

According to the report, about one-third of physicians have adjusted their business models to be more flexible regarding changing models of care. And about one-fifth reported offering entirely new services to remain competitive as non-traditional healthcare avenues expand.

Physicians reported implementing several different new services within their practices, such as one-stop shopping (41%), behavioral health services (24%), and pharmacist services (19%). But the top new service was virtual technology, offered by just over half of surveyed physicians who added new services.

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Don’t Be Left Behind

Patients are looking for increased convenience in access to healthcare, PwC reported. Patients are frustrated with the time it takes to schedule an appointment and still more so by the travel-and-wait time for the appointment itself. As a result, about eight in 10 patients said they are open to non-traditional methods of care delivery. Six in 10 said they would consider a virtual doctor’s visit.

With this many patients looking for more convenient care, physicians need to adapt to keep up. Otherwise, you’ll lose patients and potential revenue to retail health clinics and urgent care centers, which saw patient visits triple from 2010 to 2014. Patients might also turn to lower-cost concierge companies offering personalized, attentive care with shorter wait times than traditional practices.

Employers are seeing the benefits of virtual visits too. They recognize virtual care as being a lower-cost option and are integrating telehealth into their employee benefit packages. Not offering telemedicine services means you can lose patients under those employers’ health plans.

The patient population is aging as baby boomers reach retirement age, and the number of patients with chronic diseases has grown exponentially. Chronic disease management is now critical for physicians to perform effectively and efficiently. Telemedicine is also increasingly becoming a preferred solution to our chronic disease epidemic, with remote patient monitoring helping to catch warning signs early and keep patients out of the hospital.

There’s no stopping the healthcare revolution. PwC’s report is a wake-up call to the primary care industry and physicians who aren’t sure about adding virtual care services to their practice: Adapt now, or risk losing patients to the practices and non-traditional healthcare models that already have.

Published: March 14, 2016