Prescription for Change

Are your physicians still skeptical of telehealth? Here's how to win their buy-in.

by Ryan Furr-Johnson and Clare Wirth

Amid America's new coronavirus epidemic, health care organizations rapidly adopted telehealth with overall positive responses from physicians and patients alike—but sustaining telehealth's hard-won momentum is by no means guaranteed.

How to talk to physicians about telehealth

In fact, many medical group executives tell us that virtual visit utilization has drastically declined in recent months. While some of that decline is warranted, executives have expressed that there has been an overcorrection, with many physicians defaulting to in-person visits that could be virtual.  

Why are physicians defaulting to in-person care?

Part of the reason why physicians are returning to in-person care is because executives didn't have time to build broad physician buy-in for telehealth amid the initial Covid-19 surge in the spring. But securing physician buy-in is key to the sustainability of any large-scale change—and telehealth is no exception.

Physicians were key innovators to stand up telehealth fast out of necessity, but many executives now need to make the case for longer-term adoption to unlock telehealth's potential to advance strategic priorities, such as access expansion, care coordination, and lower cost of care. But physicians, while willing to invest in telehealth during an emergency, remain skeptical about its long-term prospects: In their desire to deliver the highest quality care, physicians have expressed concerns about virtual visits' clinical appropriateness, the logistical complexity, or assume that their patients won't want to engage virtually.

To win buy-in, we've crafted responses to the most common physician concerns about telehealth. Use them to address these six points of pushback you'll face in medical staff meetings and one-on-one conversations:

  1. "I need to do a physical exam. Otherwise, it's not good medicine."
  2. "I don't know how to do telemedicine," or, "That's not my area of expertise."
  3. "Patients don't want to use it," or, "My elderly patients don't want to use it."
  4. "It's too impersonal," or, "I will lose the patient connection."
  5. "Telehealth is just adding visits to my schedule and I don't have capacity for that."
  6. "I'm not going to do telehealth if I'm not getting paid in-person rates for it."

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How Covid-19 will impact telehealth

The rapid embrace of telehealth in the wake of Covid-19 is simply astonishing. In less than one month, provider practices shifted from doing almost no virtual visits to doing only virtual visits.

While telehealth won't be the only way to access care in the future, it will be a much more commonplace one. Read our take on telehealth's sudden pivot from "nice-to-have" to baseline expectation.

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